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Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson

Reverend, W. Franklyn Richardson was born on June 14, 1949 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s Westside. His father William Franklyn Richardson Sr. worked in the meat packing district, and his mother Amanda Richardson owned a beauty parlor. Richardson is the eldest of four and grew up anchored in the church. He attended West Philadelphia High School and obtained his B.A. degree from Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia. In 1975, he earned his master of sacred theology from Yale University, and his doctorate as a Wyatt Tee Walker Fellow from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

At the age of eighteen Richardson delivered his first sermon at Community Baptist Church in Philadelphia, where he was issued a license to preach. By the age of nineteen, Richardson was subsequently, full-time pastor of Rising Mount Zion Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia and St. James Baptist Church in Varina, Virginia. In 1975, Richardson delivered his trial sermon at Grace Baptist Church in Mount Veron, New York, a year later he was selected to serve at Grace as senior pastor. In 1976, Grace Baptist Church hosted the New Year’s Eve Watch Night service aired on national radio opposite the New Year’s Eve service hosted by the pope. The following year, Grace’s Christmas service aired on CBS (coordinated by actor Ossie Davis). In 1982, Richardson became the host of WVOX, 1460 radio broadcasted nationally every Sunday morning. He is the founder of, “Windows of Grace”, Grace in Port St. Lucie Florida, and the Freedom School. Richardson has been selected by Al Sharpton to serve as chairman of the National Action Network. As chairman, his responsibilities included leading the organization on raising the consciousness of African-Americans.

Richardson has been inducted into the Martin Luther King, Jr., Board of Preachers at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He has also been elected as General Secretary for the National Baptist Convention United States of America, Inc. Richardson has served on the World Council of Churches Central Committee, the Ujamaa community development corporation and the Harvard University Divinity School Summer Leadership Institute. He has been presented with the Red Cross Award and in 2010, delivered a sermon at Saint Matthew Anglican Church in Soweto, South Africa. Richardson currently resides in Scarsdale, New York. He is married to Inez Nunnally Richardson; they are the parents of two adult children and the grandparents of four.

Accession Number

A2012.122

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/18/2012

Last Name

Richardson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Franklyn

Occupation
Schools

West Philadelphia High School

Virginia Union University

Yale Divinity School

United Theological Seminary

Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School

Belmont Charter School

Hardy Williams Academy

Community College of Philadelphia

First Name

W.

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

RIC16

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Monte Carlo, France

Favorite Quote

My, My, My, My, My.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

6/14/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Religious leader Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson (1949 - ) was the senior pastor of the Grace Baptist Church and the chairman of the National Action Network.

Employment

Grace Baptist Church

National Action Network

West Park Hospital

Hankins Funeral Home, Inc.

Rising Mount Zion Baptist Church

Conference of National Black Churches

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson talks about his mother's upbringing and career

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes his father's education and professions

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson remembers his brother

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson talks about his sister's acting career

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes his childhood home

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson remembers his childhood pastimes

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes his early experiences of religion

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson remembers the African American community in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes his early education

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes his conditional admission to Virginia Union University

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes the Community Baptist Church of West Philadelphia in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes the Civil Rights Movement in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson recalls his early involvement with the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes his experiences at West Philadelphia High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson remembers his calling to the ministry

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes his experiences at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson recalls how he came to pastor the Rising Mount Zion Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson remembers the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson talks about the formation of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson talks about the formation of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson recalls his professors at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes his organizational activities at Virginia Union University

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson remembers Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson remembers Reverend Gardner Taylor

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes how he came to pastor the Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, New York

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson talks about the history of the Grace Baptist Church

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson recalls his admission to the Yale Divinity School

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson remembers the Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson talks about his graduate degrees

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson remembers his seminary professors

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes his affiliation with the Morehouse College Board of Ministers and Laity

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson recalls his appointment to the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson talks about the Grace Baptist Church in Port Saint Lucie, Florida

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes the Grace Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson talks about the National Action Network

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson talks about the shooting of Trayvon Martin, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson talks about the shooting of Trayvon Martin, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes the role of the Conference of National Black Churches

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson talks about the theology of storefront churches

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson shares his stance on gay marriage

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson talks about his board memberships

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes the Our Faith Empowers program

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson talks about the notable members of the Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, New York

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson talks about Grace Baptist Church's webcasts

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson talks about the Virginia Union University Board of Trustees

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson talks about his family

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$3

DAStory

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DATitle
Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson describes the Grace Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools
Reverend Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson remembers his calling to the ministry
Transcript
Tell me about the Children's Defense Fund Freedom School [Grace Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools, Mount Vernon, New York].$$Oh man, wonderful. As you know [HistoryMaker] Marian Wright Edelman who worked with Martin Luther King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] in the Civil Rights Movement, one of the byproducts of the movement was she created--well she had a concern that the children of the future would be in better conditions as a result of civil rights and that there continued to be racism that affected children. So she created the Children's Defense Fund [Washington, D.C.] with the purpose of trying to protect children, advocating on behalf of children; legislation, programs and so forth. One of the byproducts of her program is she ended up creating what we call Freedom Schools. Freedom Schools are the result of her passion for the children. I learned about Freedom School, I was invited--she bought the Haley Farm [Alex Haley Farm; Children's Defense Fund Haley Farm, Clinton, Tennessee] and they have retreats there once--annually and other times, but there's a Proctor, Sam Proctor retreat [Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry] that she invited me, they invited me to come speak. While I was there, I was exposed to Freedom Schools. And when I heard about Freedom Schools I was so impacted and influenced that I decided that I would ask our staff to look into how we could do that--we had to have Freedom Schools. So ten years ago we started our first Freedom School. Freedom School is a summer program, six weeks, that's designed to complement public education and to put self esteem into the students. It's based on African motifs; it's written--it's designed for--with a curriculum that's designed for motivation, self esteem. All of the authors are black authors. They get twelve books they read in the course of six weeks. They're exposed to successful African American leaders from mayors to doctors to lawyers to pastors. They come in the mornings and read to them. They go on field trips that are designed to motivation. The whole curriculum, we bring, we take college students, send them to Haley Farm and train them on how to be Freedom School facilitators, and then when the summer comes, we hire the college students to teach the Freedom School scholars. We started out with fifty, then we went to 100, then we went to 150, last year we had six hundred and this year we're going to have six hundred. It cost us about one thousand dollars a student; we don't charge the parents anything. The parents have to pay by--they have to be every Tuesday night at parenting meetings where we give them skills on how to be better parents, more effective parents and so forth. There are so many transformational stories of kids whose lives turned around as a result of Freedom School. Kids who weren't interested in education, weren't interested in school, they go to Freedom School, they go back and the teachers tell us they can't believe the transformation. Some kids had given up on getting an education but Freedom School provides--because Freedom School affirms your identity. It celebrates your blackness, it tells you the story of the struggles of our people. So it's a wonderful place. I'm a total advocate of it. I mean, I wish that every black community in America had the resources to have Freedom Schools. So we, we have sustained this for ten years; we're going to have a ten year anniversary this year of Freedom Schools here in Mount Vernon [New York] that--sponsored by Grace [Grace Baptist Church] and our community development corporation [Ujamaa Community Development Corporation, Mount Vernon, New York].$Now did your mother [Amanda Ellison Richardson] and your uncles kind of--?$$No they, they never, I think that my mother--I think all of my family always thought I was going to be a minister no matter what I said. They felt that I had the markings on me of being a minister and that it was obvious that I was going to be that. In their view there was no question, even though they never pushed it or advocated it, they just put me in the environment. And (laughter), when I decided when I was in high school [West Philadelphia High School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] I wasn't going to be a minister, I was going to be a doctor. So I went to high sch- went to work for West Park Hospital [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania] after school my last year or the last two years, the eleventh grade. And that's when I was an orderly and so forth. I met the doctors there and they liked me and they said if I were to graduate they would help me go to medical school and so forth. But at the same time, I still struggled with this idea about ministry trying to suppress it and ultimately I had a surgery in 1966, appendectomy, emergency surgery.$$You were like sixteen?$$Right. The surgery was in '65 [1965], and my last year of high school. So at that--long story short, I promised the Lord that if I got through the surgery 'cause at the end of the surgery--the surgery wasn't so bad, but the ap- the spinal they gave me we- malfunctioned and I ended up being paralyzed longer than I was supposed to be and that was really traumatic. And in the process of that, I told the Lord I would go ahead and accept the ministry and preach. When I got out, I still wasn't going to do it (laughter); I still was going to be a doctor. I'll never forget the mixed emotions my dad [William F. Richardson, Sr.] had. When I came home after having presided a funeral one night, I told him I decided I was going to go into the ministry and be a preacher. My dad kind of like you know it was all right that I was going to do that, but he had his mind set on his son being a doctor (laughter). So I accepted--I called my pastor [James Hamlin] the next day and told him that I had finally decided that I'm going into the ministry, I want to go to school. So he said come over and meet with me, and I met with him and from there I ended up preaching my trial sermon, my initial sermon before I left for college, then I went on to Virginia Union [Virginia Union University, Richmond, Virginia]. So that's the journ- the walk for me.$$Now what did you preach about? What was your first sermon about?$$May 27, nineteen sixty--1967. I preached I have no need to want, the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want [Psalms 23:1]. I talked about the, that, that there's no need to want, that God provides all that I, all that I need and that that was worth celebrating, I have no need. Kind of living life with a guarantee, under a--with a foundation, under, underpinning, a s- a net to catch you 'cause God will provide my needs. So I remember that (unclear) it's been fifty- almost fifty years ago.

Reverend France A. Davis

Reverend France Albert Davis was born on December 5, 1946 on a farm, outside of Gough, Georgia to John and Julia Davis. He attended and graduated from the segregated Waynesboro High & Industrial School in Waynesboro, Georgia in 1964. In 1966, Davis joined the United States Air Force where he served as an aircraft mechanic. He went on to earn his B.A. degree in rhetoric from the University of California at Berkeley and his B.S. degree in religion from Westminster College in Salt Lake City. Davis also earned his M.A. degree in mass communications from the University of Utah. He has attended several other universities including the Tuskegee Institute and Laney College in Oakland, studying subjects ranging from Afro-American Studies to arts and humanities.

In 1968, Davis served as the assistant to the pastor at St. Paul Baptist Church in Boise, Idaho. Then, in 1971, he received his certificate of ordination at Center Street Baptist Church in Oakland, California where he later became an associate and youth minister. In 1972, Davis came to Salt Lake City, Utah to fulfill a one-year teaching fellowship at the University of Utah. That same year, he joined Calvary Baptist Church where he later served as pastor and chief administrator.

During the 1960s, Davis participated in the Civil Rights Movement and marched from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama promoting voting rights for African Americans. At the onset of the Civil Rights Movement, he met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and received his spiritual calling into the ministry as a young man. In 1972, Davis was confronted by his minority status, when he was removed from the LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University campus for wearing an afro. As a political activist, Davis was also instrumental in declaring Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an official holiday, an achievement for which his church office was riddled with gun shots. He later furthered his education by earning his M.M. degree in ministry from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho in 1994.

Davis has served as the secretary of the Salt Lake Ministerial Association; a member of the South Africa Preaching Team for the National Baptist Convention’s Foreign Mission and as an advisor, vice-president and assistant to the Dean of the Intermountain General Baptist Convention. He has also taught as an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Communications at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Davis has written several publications including Light in the Midst of Zion: A History of Black Baptists in Utah 1892-1996 and his autobiography, France Davis: An American Story Told in 2007.

Davis lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with his wife, Willene. They have three children: Carolyn, Grace and France; and one grandson, Cedric.

Davis was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 13, 2008.

Accession Number

A2008.049

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/13/2008

Last Name

Davis

Maker Category
Middle Name

A.

Schools

Gough Elementary School

Waynesboro High and Industrial School

Merritt College

Tuskegee University

Laney College

University of California, Berkeley

Bay Cities Bible College

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary

Westminster College

University of Utah

Northwest Nazarene University

First Name

France

Birth City, State, Country

Cooperstown

HM ID

DAV23

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Yes, I Have A Goodly Heritage.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Utah

Birth Date

12/5/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Salt Lake City

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fish (Fried)

Short Description

Civil rights activist and pastor Reverend France A. Davis (1946 - ) was the pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Salt Lake City, Utah. He participated in the Civil Rights Movement and was instrumental in declaring Martin Luther King Jr. Day an official holiday in Utah. Davis also taught at the University of Utah and published two books.

Employment

University of Utah

Westminster College

Salt Lake Theological Seminary

Calvary Baptist Church

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Reverend France A. Davis' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Reverend France A. Davis lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Reverend France A. Davis describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Reverend France A. Davis recalls his maternal family's experiences with the Ku Klux Klan

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Reverend France A. Davis talks about his mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Reverend France A. Davis describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Reverend France A. Davis talks about his father's education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Reverend France A. Davis describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Reverend France A. Davis describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Reverend France A. Davis talks about his early religious experiences

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Reverend France A. Davis remembers his father's storytelling

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Reverend France A. Davis describes his family home

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Reverend France A. Davis describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Reverend France A. Davis describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Reverend France A. Davis recalls his childhood pastimes

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Reverend France A. Davis recalls his favorite teachers at Gough Elementary School in Gough, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Reverend France A. Davis remembers Waynesboro High and Industrial School in Waynesboro, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Reverend France A. Davis recalls his decision to attend the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Reverend France A. Davis remembers his early interest in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Reverend France A. Davis remembers the March on Washington

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Reverend France A. Davis remembers the Selma to Montgomery March

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Reverend France A. Davis remembers his commitment to civil rights

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Reverend Frances A. Davis recalls leaving the Tuskegee Institute

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Reverend France A. Davis describes his experiences in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Reverend France A. Davis talks about his call to the ministry

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Reverend France A. Davis recalls meeting his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Reverend France A. Davis describes his college education

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Reverend France A. Davis recalls his first impressions of Oakland, California

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Reverend France A. Davis remembers D'Army Bailey

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Reverend France A. Davis talks about his college coursework

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Reverend France A. Davis recalls teaching at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Reverend France A. Davis recalls pastoring the Calvary Baptist Church in Salt Lake City, Utah

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Reverend France A. Davis describes the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Reverend France A. Davis describes the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Reverend France A. Davis talks about the history of Utah's black Baptist churches

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Reverend France A. Davis describes his religious studies

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Reverend France A. Davis talks about the Buffalo Soldiers

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Reverend France A. Davis recalls advocating for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Utah

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Reverend France A. Davis describes his civic involvement in Utah

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Reverend France A. Davis recalls his experiences in South Africa

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Reverend France A. Davis describes his membership in the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Reverend France A. Davis describes 'Light in the Midst of Zion: A History of Black Baptists in Utah'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Reverend France A. Davis describes 'France Davis: An American Story Told'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Reverend France A. Davis talks about the programs at the Calvary Baptist Church in Salt Lake City, Utah

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Reverend France A. Davis talks about his religious philosophy and mentors

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Reverend France A. Davis reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Reverend France A. Davis describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Reverend France A. Davis reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Reverend France A. Davis describes his family

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Reverend France A. Davis talks about the congregation of the Calvary Baptist Church in Salt Lake City, Utah

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Reverend France A. Davis describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Reverend France A. Davis narrates his photographs

DASession

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DATape

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DAStory

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DATitle
Reverend France A. Davis recalls his maternal family's experiences with the Ku Klux Klan
Reverend France A. Davis recalls advocating for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Utah
Transcript
Any stories about, about Reconstruction or what, you know what it was like in those days between the (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) One of the stories that my mother [Julia Cooper Davis] told us almost daily was about an activity with her family and the Ku Klux Klan [KKK], and there're two of those stories. One of them is that her uncle's wife was walking and refused to step off, out of the way of some white ladies that was walking in the town of Waynesboro [Georgia] and that when she came home that evening that night the Ku Klux Klan showed up to get her. Her husband interfered, who was my uncle, and they then took him down to the local African American Baptist church and put him inside, set the church in fire, and he was never seen again. The other story was that my mother's father [July Cooper] got somehow in trouble with the Klan when she was just a small baby and as a result of that the Klan came and sat on their porch waiting for him to come home and he came home later in the evening, but before he came, he never did come home that night. He always came home after dark, and so my grandmother [Scoatney Scott Cooper] sent one of the children, she had sixteen of them. It was easier to send one out and not miss, that would not be missed out the back door to meet him and tell him not to come home and his life was saved because he never came home that night. But the Klan was sitting on his porch, on their porch, my parents, my mother's grand- my mother's parents' porch waiting for him to come home. And he didn't come home for several days.$$I suppose the Klan didn't have any idea how many children were really there anyway.$$They didn't have any idea how many children were there and they certainly wouldn't miss one. There were just so many of them, and so they didn't miss that one.$$Okay, now that's, that's cert- those stories certainly tell you something about the atmosphere--$$Yes.$$--in that part of Georgia.$$Yeah, yeah.$I have a note here that says--oh did somebody actually, now you were involved in the, making Martin Luther King's [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] birthday a holiday?$$Yes.$$Right.$$Nineteen eighty-three [1983] Congress passed the law and President Reagan [President Ronald Wilson Reagan] signed the federal law making Martin Luther King holiday [Martin Luther King Jr. Day], Martin Luther King's birthday a holiday on the federal side. Utah was one of the states that decided that that federal law would not work for them, did not apply to them, and so we had to get a separate bill introduced in the state legislature here in Utah. Senator Terry Williams was the only African American in the legislature at the time. He sponsored the bill, I then took it as chair of a committee to educate and agitate on behalf of the passage of the bill and eventually had a debate with the Representative Robert Sykes [Robert B. Sykes], S-Y-K-E-S who was opposed to the bill. I debated him on television, and at the end of the debate he volunteered to help sponsor the bill.$$So you convinced him?$$Convinced him in the debate that this is something worthwhile, that it's good for everybody. And he sponsored it and the bill passed. We brought Mrs. King [Coretta Scott King] out, and she spoke to the legislature.$$Now what argument did you offer that would actually change the mind of someone that bent on stopping the bill?$$Well a number of their initial arguments against the holiday were erroneous. They were arguing or not proving. They were arguing that Martin Luther King was a womanizer, that he was a drunken, that he never did anything for Utah, that he never came to Utah and that it was an African American holiday. So, those were their arguments. I simply countered all of those. I reminded them as far as Martin Luther King's coming to Utah that he was on the front page of their own newspaper right here in Salt Lake in Salt Lake City [Utah]. I also pointed out to them that what he did in, in the country was manifested more for white women in Utah than it was for African Americans. They were the minority in Utah, white women, so I pointed that out. I also argued with them that, they, they said that there was no holiday for Brigham Young and that if there was gonna be a holiday for anybody, there ought to be one for him. And I suggested to them that we would exchange the holiday for a city called Brigham City that's in Utah and of course they wasn't about to do that, so.$$Okay, but you convinced Robert Sykes to back?$$Yes.$$Okay, now this--$$I saw him by the way just about a month ago, and he reminded me that, that it was that interactions with him that caused him to be the man that he is today.$$Okay and, but this activity was not without its dangers (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Absolutely not.$$Someone shot up your office I heard.$$Shot my office up. I had seventeen bullet holes in my office. I got threatened, threatening letters all of the time. The worse one came to my home as well as to my office, and they promised to pour gasoline on me and take me out to the Great Salt Lake and drown me and if that didn't work they'd take me back to Africa. So, it was not without danger. My wife [Willene Witt Davis] and children [Carolyn Davis, Grace Davis and France Davis] were afraid.$$The last threat didn't seem so bad I mean to take you to Africa.$$Take you back to Africa (laughter).$$That would have been--$$That would have been good for me. It would have been like throwing the rabbit in the briar patch (simultnaoeus).