I visited Rayford Davis in a VA Hospital in Murfreesboro on July 5. The American Legion member of 65 years is looking and sounding good.
He had plenty of conversation when I was visiting him. A lot of people know Rayford as a Southern Standard editor for 42 years. He was an exceptional writer. He chose his articles and carefully worded them. He wrote what he thought was the truth and factual. This is a man of many words. His memory is good too. He was a youth in the late 1920s when his mother passed.
Comrade Davis didn’t have the luxury of electronic typewriters as we do today. He had the old Royal typewriters with no electricity connected. Not only was he the editor in 1955, but also typed up sports news. “I remember when the newspaper grew from a weekly edition to three issues per week,” he said.
This 89-year-old gentleman has been married to his beloved wife Hannah for 63 years. Hannah Davis has been by Rayford’s side through thick and thin. They have a daughter named Jan. She attends Pacesetters Inc., which is an adult activity center for mentally and physically challenged adults. Jan was born in 1954, she still lives a fruitful life.
This was one of the many passions Mr. Davis and wife Hannah had in mind. He mentioned the school named Gribble Memorial, which later became a school for the handicapped. He really spoke out for the handicapped children. He later helped established the building on Sparta Street, which is the old Pacesetters building. The new Pacesetters building is located just across from Three Star Mall.
Comrade Davis does not mention anything about being a hero in Normandy during World War II. He spent his time as a radio operator and was involved in combat experience on the front line. For his service during this experience he received the Silver Star, a couple of Purple Hearts, and the Combat Infantry Badge.
Even though this has been many years ago, he related to me that he came upon six Germans and one of them held up what appeared to be a flag, and in the other hand behind their back contained a pistol. They started shooting, and he returned fire killing an estimated six Germans. “In a situation like that, a person’s natural instincts take over,” said Rayford. “Was I scared to death? Yes, it was either them or me. I chose to live and was very fortunate.”
Davis talked about how his unit had just gone through a fence row when there was an explosion. He was hit by shrapnel in the right thigh. After he was treated, he received a shot nearly in the same place as the shrapnel. He was lucky he was shot and hit by shrapnel on the same day and lived through it.
Rayford Davis became a member of the VFW and American Legion Post 173 shortly after World War II. Rayford transferred his membership from Post 173 to Post 208 in the year 2000. He’s been a paid life member ever since.
He has made history for our post. Rayford Davis is the first non-black service member to join our post. We have had several people of different races to join our post since then. The sad part about history was in the early 1940s when World War II broke out, American Legion Post 173 was already formed, but the black military personnel were not allowed to join, so they formed and chartered Post 208 in 1943. This post has a small membership but is still thriving. Post 208 plans to be adopted by a school in Warren County in the year 2011 for support and sponsorship.
Comrade Davis is considered a war hero, humanitarian, good newspaper reporter and editor, friend, community leader, father and husband.
“There are not a heck of a lot of World War II guys left, I’m just proud to be here,” says Mr. Davis.
Wayne R. Wolford Sr., is commander of American Legion Post 208.