Friday, January 12, 2018

White-Cowper Airport

Access to Ocracoke is by state-operated ferries, private boat, or airplane. In the '30s and '40s pilots landed on the beach. After NC12 was completed in 1957 pilots often used the new highway as a runway.

OPS Photo, Cochran Collection

Sam Jones (1893-1977) liked to fly to Ocracoke from Norfolk, Virginia. He was a colorful entrepreneur, originally from Swan Quarter, NC, who married Ocracoke native Mary Ruth Kelly. Among other things, Sam was an early promoter of a paved airstrip on Ocracoke Island. With the help of Albert W. Cowper, Resident Superior Court Judge of Lenoir County, and an avid sailor who frequently visited Ocracoke, Sam made contact with Kinston attorney, Thomas J. White, chairman of the NC Advisory Budget Commission and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. White, incidentally, was an avid fisherman and hunter who loved Ocracoke Island and the Outer Banks.

As the result of considerable lobbying by Judge Cowper, Mr. Jones, and others, appropriation for the 3000 foot paved airstrip was approved, and it was built in the early 1960s. In 1964, Sam Jones, newly enthusiastic about easier air travel to the island, commissioned a sign to be placed at the airport. It read, "White-Cowper Airport." Sam is reported to have remarked, "I named the Ocracoke airstrip 'White-Cowper Airport' because Senator Tom White got the money appropriated, and I named it for Judge Albert Cowper for getting Tom White to do it."

It has been many a year since any sign advertising the White-Cowper Airport has been displayed on Ocracoke Island. Few people even remember the sign, and I have been unable to locate a photo of it. I wonder by what authority (if any) Sam named the Ocracoke Airport, and if the airport has an official name in any state documents. It would be interesting to find out. 

This article in the Ocracoke Observer describes a 2016 visit to the island by Conor & Sam Dancy in their rented Skylane airplane:


  1. Everything officialish I can find just calls it "Ocracoke Island Airport".

  2. Anonymous7:43 PM

    Thank goodness for such forward thinking folk. An Airport -a job generator- a simple thing- what a fantastic investment. Taxpayer money being WELL SPENT!

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