Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jack Norvell Davis (1925-1975)

Artist, Illustrator, Cartoonist, and Art Editor
Born March 28, 1925, Dallas, Texas
Died September 9, 1975, Long Beach, California

Jack Norvell Davis is part of an interesting story, told by his niece Sandra S. VanOrman on a website devoted to her grandmother, Maude Mae West Davis. Maude Mae West (1888-1958) danced and sang as part of a traveling troupe of performers called Dan Russell's Matinee Girl Company. Maude married a musician in Galveston, Texas, in 1915, and settled down to the life of a wife and mother. Her son, the future artist Jack Norvell Davis, was born in Dallas, Texas, on March 28, 1925.

Sometime in the 1930s, the Davis family moved to Long Beach, California. Both Davis boys went off to war after Pearl Harbor. According to his niece, Jack N. Davis saw action at the Battle of the Bulge (which incidentally started sixty-seven years ago this week). After the war, Davis wanted to study art in Europe, but he was discouraged by his father. The two had a business in Long Beach in which they made and sold fishing rods. For many years Davis was in and out of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Sepulveda, California, suffering from emotional or psychological problems. As a patient, he illustrated and served as art editor of the hospital newsletter, En Theme.  

As far as anyone knows, Jack Norvell Davis (who also signed his name J. Norvell Davis or Jack N. Davis, perhaps to avoid confusion with the famed comic book artist and illustrator, Jack Davis), drew just one picture for Weird Tales. It was for a story called "De Brignac's Lady" by Kirk Mashburn, printed in the last issue of the magazine, September 1954.

Sandra VanOrman writes: "Uncle Jack was a big man, quite rotund, with sandy colored hair and blue eyes." In the November 1958 issue of En Thème, patients at the veterans hospital wrote about the things for which they were thankful. Jack Norvell Davis wrote: "I am thankful God has given me joy in the little things of life as well as those of greater immensity--the friendly letter, a smile, good food, a cold drink of water, the compassion of a friend in time of trial."

Jack Norvell Davis died on September 9, 1975, in Long Beach. He had turned fifty only a few months before. Davis' grave is on the grounds of Los Angeles National Cemetery. Incidentally, Dr. Miles John Breuer, another contributor to Weird Tales, is also buried there. 

Jack Norvell Davis' Illustration in Weird Tales
"De Brignac's Lady" by Kirk Mashburn (Sept. 1954; the story was reprinted from Weird Tales, Feb. 1933)

Further Reading
You can read more about Jack Norvell Davis and his family on a website devoted to his mother, Maude Mae West Davis, here.

En Thème (Oct. 1958), the newsletter of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Sepulveda, California, with cover art by Jack Norvell Davis.
Thanks to Sandra S. VanOrman and Randal Everts for information on Jack Norvell Davis. Thanks to Ms. VanOrman for samples of his art.
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

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