AP vet Davenport receives SC’s highest civilian honor

By MEG KINNARD Oct. 26, 2012
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Associated Press reporter Jim Davenport receives The Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina's highest civilian honor, from S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley on Friday, Oct. 26, 2012 at his home in Columbia, S.C. Haley said Davenport, who has cancer and is on leave from the AP, had exhibited fairness through his reporting and helped change her view of the media. Davenport, 54, has reported on politics for AP for more than a dozen years. (AP Photo/ Mary Ann Chastain)
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Gov. Nikki Haley on Friday presented Associated Press reporter Jim Davenport with the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina's highest civilian honor.
 
During a private ceremony, Haley said Davenport, who has cancer and is on leave from the AP, had exhibited fairness through his reporting and helped change her view of the media.
 
“I am one that has never been a fan, all due respect, of the press,” Haley said. “You changed that for me. ... You showed me what good press looks like. You showed me what fair press looks like.”

Davenport, 54, has reported on politics for AP for more than a dozen years. During that time, he has focused on accountability issues, seeking to inform people in South Carolina about what their governors, lawmakers and other powerful officials are doing with the public's money.

Davenport's source list is the envy of reporters throughout South Carolina, his ringing cellphone a constant both day and night. In 2009, Davenport was the first to report that Gov. Mark Sanford hadn't been seen in days, with the Republican later revealing during a tearful news conference he had been in Argentina seeing his lover _ to whom he subsequently proposed after a divorce.

He stayed with the story and its fallout in the years after, revealing that Sanford had used taxpayer money to upgrade himself to business or first-class on flights and had used the state plane for personal trips.

Sanford eventually paid a $74,000 fine _ the largest ethics penalty in state history _ to resolve dozens of state Ethics Commission charges that he violated state ethics laws with his campaign spending and travel. The GOP governor also agreed to put about $3,000 back into his campaign account as a reimbursement for personal use of its funds.

Davenport has also been a fixture at the Statehouse in Columbia during some of the most dramatic periods of modern South Carolina history. He served as the news cooperative's main reporter on the day in July 2000 when both the Confederate flag was taken down from atop the capitol dome and the state banned video gambling.

With South Carolina's establishment as an early presidential primary state, Davenport has also been a fixture at political rallies for candidates from both major parties. In his red pickup truck, he has crisscrossed the state countless times to track White House hopefuls and quiz them on the issues of the day _ both for South Carolina and national stories.

Even though he has often asked them tough questions, Davenport has won the respect of lawmakers inside both chambers. In March, after honoring him with a resolution, every member of the South Carolina Senate came by to shake Davenport's hand. Six weeks later, the House honored him in a similar way.

Davenport has also been a tireless advocate for the state's Freedom of Information Act, coordinating the first audit that showed how little public bodies and law enforcement agencies understood about the public's right to know.
 
Davenport also previously covered business news for The State in Columbia.
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Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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