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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

USA

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

1$1

DATape

1$4

DAStory

4$5

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).