Local man who was cartoonist for the Alley Oop comic strip dies in car accident in 2001:
Where It Happened
“Little River Road, the narrow and curvaceous connector between the Greenville Highway and Kanuga Road/Crab Creek Road, was widened somewhat and repaved only after tragedy struck near one of its bends on December 10, 2001. The victim: David Graue (1926–2001), a retired cartoonist of the ‘Alley Oop’ comic strip.
“‘Alley Oop,’ the irrepressible, club-wielding Neanderthal, first appeared from the pen of Vincent Trout Hamlin (1900–1993) in 1932, and the comic strip went into syndication in 1933. At the peak of its popularity, eight hundred newspapers carried the strip. When Hamlin retired in 1971, his assistant Dave Graue took over, illustrating the cartoon through the 1980s, when Jack Bender took over the illustrative component. Graue, who enjoyed portraying North Carolina scenes in a pointillist motif, continued writing the ‘Alley Oop’ strip from his studio in a Flat Rock subdivision until he retired in 2001.
“Dave Graue and his wife lived in the Tranquility neighborhood off Little River Road. The Graues had complained about being run off the road, or nearly run off the road, by oversized trucks—a complaint not uncommon in the area. Then one day as Graue left his neighborhood, a dump truck struck his car after the truck driver lost control of his vehicle, overcorrected and crossed the centerline, crashing into Graue’s car. The truck driver was charged with death by a motor vehicle. Following the catastrophe, residents of Tranquility petitioned North Carolina’s governor, Michael Easley, and the State Department of Transportation to restrict weight limits on Little River Road and launched a movement to widen and improve the dangerous corridor.”
—Terry Ruscin, his the book, “Hidden History of Henderson County”
That was a sad incident. I met Mr. Graue when I attended an art show in Hendersonville of some of his strips when I was an aspiring cartoonist myself. He was very nice and encouraging and he even gave me one of his original penciled Alley Oop comic vellums signed to me and he accidentally signed it with his wife’s name instead of his comic character. It was great having him living here and tragic when I remember that accident taking him.
History of the Alley Oop comic strip:
Vincent Trout Hamlin was born on May 10, 1900 in Perry, Iowa to parents Erma and Dr. Frederick Clarence Hamlin, a dentist. He began drawing at an early age and published his first cartoons in 1916. Lying about his age, he enlisted in the army at 17 to fight in WWI and was shipped to France as part of the Sixth Army’s Motor Transport Group. When the war ended, he returned to the United States determined to become a syndicated comic artist, having met a newspaper man in the army who convinced him of his abilities. He spent a number of years in all sorts of employment, trying to get his start. 1933 was his big break, when the Newspaper Enterprise Association purchased Alley Oop for syndication. Hamlin continued work on the strip until his retirement in 1973, when Dave Graue, formerly Hamlin’s assistant, took over full responsibility. Graue retired in 2001 and the strip was passed on to Jack and Carole Bender, who continue to draw and write the strip today.