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With the death of James William “Bill” Davis at age 93 on Dec. 24, the community said goodbye to the last of the Davis Boys.
They leave a beautiful, phenomenal legacy.
Brothers Jap, Tom and Bill Davis, sons of Luna Chambers and Jasper David Davis, formed the most athletic family in Wilson County history.
They were prominent in Duke University football for 13 consecutive years from the 1930s into the 1940s.
All claimed the distinction and privilege of playing for coaching legends Leon Brogden (Charles L. Coon) and Wallace Wade (Duke University).
Each was honored with the Charles H. “Red” Barrett Special Achievement award by the Wilson Hot Stove League. All three were cited by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association for continued involvement with the association of youth of North Carolina.
They were classy, indisputable winners.
Jap set the competitive bar high. Tom followed in distinguishing style. The toughest task belonged to the youngest, Bill, in coming behind Jap and Tom.
“He loved following his older brothers and being involved in their sporting careers,” sisters Virginia and LuAnn reported of their father, Bill. “The boys had a typical sibling rivalry, but one of respect for each other’s accomplishments.”
The sisters reference the transplanted 1942 Rose Bowl that was shifted to Durham from the West Coast. Jap was coaching; Tom was playing; and Bill was an usher.
“He loved his time at Duke. ... His fellow players, fraternity brothers and coaches,” Bill’s daughters said. “He would often quote ‘Wallace Wade-isms’ — even until the last days, he was replaying a game or talking about Coach Wade and his impact on his life.
“He raised his children engaged in Duke football/athletics. Trips to Durham included walking on the campus, visits to the chapel, opening his old mailbox and telling stories about campus life and his first years of marriage to Alice. He credited her (and friends confirmed) for getting him through school.”
In the shadows of Tom’s All-America career, Bill left his signature with Duke football.
He excelled as an offensive and defensive lineman. A fierce competitor, Bill Davis was mentioned by North Carolina’s legendary Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice as the player delivering the hardest hit ever against him.
Bill Davis was saluted as Duke’s most valuable player in 1944 and, that same season, was proclaimed the MVP in the Blue-Gray All-Star game.
He played football and baseball at Charles L. Coon. He immensely enjoyed his right-field position and it’s reported that he sometimes loved baseball more than football. Bill played American Legion baseball.
Bill spoke with pride of serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war, he contacted the members of his company and organized reunions for many years.
This was before the computer era and Bill did all the research himself by going to the library, looking in phone books and making calls to directory assistance.
Bill became involved in football officiating, perhaps influenced by the fact Tom assigned football officials.
He officiated high school, Carolinas Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference games, and often included his family on trips to schools along the East Coast. His daughters assured these are highly memorable experiences to them.
Research estimates Bill worked some 50 ACC games and a handful of bowl games — including the 1972 Sun Bowl, when North Carolina defeated Texas Tech, 32-28.
Keep in mind Bill was certainly no fan of the Tar Heels or the Kansas Jayhawks.
Teaching proved to be his final career stop, ending with an auto mechanics teaching position at Fike High.
Noted his daughters: “A man of large stature, he guided sternly and fairly. Teaching was always a joy — whether a real life experience or one in the classroom. He loved being around the youth and his students continued to speak highly of him and his character.”
In reflection, Bill’s proudest moments included his Eagle Scout award at First Christian Church, the MVP accolade at Duke, officiating in the Sun Bowl and military service that included playing football in Seine, France, to entertain the troops.
ABOUT THE MAN
A stirring eulogy revealed much about the true essence of Bill Davis, who lived a long and, if you will, model life.
His demeanor exuded modesty, pride, appreciation, commitment and dedication. Bill was a stickler for rules and their strict interpretation.
You didn’t forget his rock-hard handshake.
Bill was about love for family and church life. No activities preceded church. The same for homework. His support was unwavering for his daughters and beloved grandchildren.
Minister Jack Clifford remembered Bill as a family man of natural devotion.
“His love and loyalty shine through,” Clifford informed those to showed to pay final respects. “His inner traits were most exceptional. He was warm, considerate and sensitive. His life was a beautiful, daily adventure.”
Pastor Gary Walling commented that Bill lived a “blessed long and wonderful life” and elaborated on his life’s deeds to enter the Gates of Heaven.
“He was held with love and affection in so many terms by so many,” Walling commented. “He was a frugal and generous spirit.”
Bill Davis was remembered as the right guard at Duke, for the fact he did not very often reflect on his military stint and for his passion for ice cream.
Sincerest condolences are extended to Alice, his wife of 69 years; daughters, family members, loved ones, friends and the so many that knew him.
He’s so missed but his legacy as a sports hero and complete man live on.