‘Roasted, Toasted and Boasted’

Published 9:51 am Tuesday, October 13, 2009

AHOSKIE – A man known for his drive and passion for the people of Hertford County was honored here Saturday night.

Hertford County Commissioner DuPont L. Davis was honored as Citizen of the Year by Roanoke-Chowan Community College during a banquet in his honor. At the same event, Davis was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by Wendy Ruffin-Barnes on behalf of North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue.

The evening of roasting, toasting and boasting about Davis included remarks from his family, friends, colleagues and contemporaries. The school also started a scholarship in Davis’s name which received more than $15,000 in commitments.

The evening began with Dr. Ralph Soney, President of RCCC, giving the first recollections of Davis. Dr. Soney said when he first arrived, he received a telephone call from Davis inviting him to lunch. After their meal, they toured Hertford County with Davis providing information on the trip.

“All of a sudden, he asked me what he just said and before long I was sitting on the edge of my seat,” Dr. Soney mused. “I learned to always be prepared with DuPont, because you never know when you might get tested.”

Dr. Soney said Davis’s help in the community was appreciated.

“This is my way and the community college’s way of saying thank you,” he said.

The first speaker was Hertford County Board of Education member J. Wendell Hall who said the two had been friends for many years.

“DuPont and I go way back to the time when my hair was dark and he had more of it,” Hall said. “In all seriousness, what this guy says, he means. He says it like it is.

“People call him the king; they call him the Big Tuna, but whatever they call him, he is duly respected,” Hall added. “He is a friend. He’s a father. He’s a church person and he is a person who believes in Hertford County.”

According to Davis’s rules, the presenters each had five minutes. After three minutes and again at four minutes, the band sounded to let them know it was time.

Upon his taking the podium, the honorable Judge Cy Grant offered a word of warning.

“To the band, if you play while I’m talking, I’m locking this man up,” Judge Grant said pointing to Davis.

Grant then talked about Davis’s propensity for being in charge of whatever organization he belongs to.

Looking down at Hertford County Commission Chairman Howard J. Hunter III, Judge Grant said, “Little Howard down there thinks he is chairman of the Hertford County Commissioners. Before him, Curtis Freeman thought he was chairman of the commissioners, but DuPont is still running the show. You know how I know? Because he told me so.”

Then, turning serious, Judge Grant said he was appreciative of Davis, both professionally and personally.

“I am fortunate to have him as my county commissioner and proud to have him as my friend,” Judge Grant closed.

Ahoskie Town Councilman Ronald Gatling then talked about his relationship with Davis from his time playing in the commissioner’s back yard as a child to the time when he joined the same lodge.

“He is a man I’ve come to know and love as a friend and a mentor,” Gatling said.

Bertie County Assistant County Manager Morris Rascoe was equally complimentary of Davis.

“His guidance, wisdom and want to know cross county lines,” Rascoe said. “If you’re around Mr. Davis, he is going to question you.”

Lilly White, who is a longtime friend of Davis, said she and he both were people who spoke their mind and that sometimes leads to raised voices.

“He’s very opinionated and so am I,” she said. “When he’s on the phone and his voice gets loud, Earline (Davis’s wife) knows he is talking to me.”

White also praised Davis for his work with the Dr. Joseph Weaver Scholarship Fund and called him a “very humble person.”

“When you die, we’re just going to put you in one of those vaults you make, because this is your eulogy,” White said.

Quinton Therman, the owner of Quinton’s in Ahoskie, said he was extremely proud to call Davis a friend.

“He’s been there for me as a mentor; helped me fill in the blanks,” Therman said. “He is a very special person to me.”

After the remarks of his friends, Davis was celebrated by his fellow commissioners.

Hunter was the first to speak and called Davis a mentor and friend.

“After I became a commissioner, DuPont took me under his wings and helped me meet people – some important, some not important and some just to watch out for,” Hunter mused.

Hunter said Davis was a man who loved his family and the county and would do anything he could for the citizens. He pointed out the honorees work to have an Employment Security Commission office returned to the county and his work with a more rapid class for EMTs at RCCC.

“I appreciate all the advice he’s given me whether I wanted to hear it or not,” Hunter said. “He has more parables than the Bible.

“My only complaint is this,” he added, turning to Davis. “If you know the answer, why do you ask the question?”

Bertie County Commission Vice Chairman L.C. Hoggard III then talked about Davis’s work to help him in a reelection bid. He also needled Davis about some of his well-known sayings.

“I’ll close with this,” Hoggard said, slipping into his best Davis accent. “Let me make myself explicitly clear, a fool who changes his mind against his will is still a fool.”

Northampton County Commission Chairman Robert V. Carter also spoke. He said he had known Davis since he married into the family.

Carter said he was pleased to know Davis and that he had touched many lives.

The next group to speak included Hertford County Manager Loria D. Williams, Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan and Economic Development Director Bill Early. They were listed on the program as, “Those who said I’ve got to do it so I can keep my job.”

Williams joked about the working relationship between her and Davis.

“I want to thank Dr. Soney and the community college for this chance to talk about DuPont Davis without repercussions,” Williams said. “DuPont and I have a unique working relationship. There are times when we’re talking that I know he wonders why he made that phone call that Saturday morning asking if I wanted to apply for this job. There are times when I’m on the back side of one of his tongue-lashings that I wonder why I took it too.”

Williams then gave some of the honorees favorite sayings, including:

Prepare for war in a time of peace;

If it’s good we did it, if it’s bad you did it; and

His rewrite of Proverbs 31:2, “Drink wine and forget about it.”

Early said he was introduced to the commissioners in December of 1988, the same time Davis took his seat on the board.

“After he got his feet wet he was like a bull,” Early said. “There were times when I knew he had my back covered because he was breathing fire on my neck.”

On a serious note, Early said he knew Davis cared for the people of Hertford County.

“There is no one in Hertford County who cares more about the people of Hertford County than DuPont Davis,” he closed.

Sheriff Vaughan joked about Davis wanting things done immediately.

“He called me about an issue last week and he was just upset,” Sheriff Vaughan said. “I was able to take care of the issue, but I can tell you, I’ve learned that if you don’t take care of the problem in eight minutes, he’ll call you back.”

The sheriff insisted, however, that Davis was first and foremost a representative of the people.

“We’re good friends, but when it comes to him doing his job for Hertford County, friendship doesn’t matter,” Sheriff Vaughan said. “He’s going to do his job.”

Walter Dorsey of the Mid-East Commission also spoke about Davis who has been on that board so long the records are in storage.

“He has a true passion for the citizens of Hertford County,” Dorsey said.

Others on the program included Dwight Ransome who was the Master of Ceremonies, Bertie County Commissioner Charles L. Smith who sang, Jeff Savage, Billie King and North Carolina Representative Annie Mobley.

Also on the program were two of Davis’s grandchildren – Daisha Davis and Devon Davis. They spoke about their grandfather and his love for his family.

The final speaker of the evening was Earline Davis, who has been married to the honoree for 40 years. Using her nickname for Davis, she told him how proud his family was.

“Pine, I want to say to you tonight, you have made your children, grandchildren and family so proud of you,” she said. “Congratulations on a job well done.”

Following those presentations, Ruffin-Barnes officially presented Davis with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, which is the highest civilian honor bestowed in the state of North Carolina. It bestows the rank of Ambassador Extraordinary on Davis.

When it came his time to talk, Davis went down the dais to return the jokes to each of his contemporaries. He also talked about the award itself.

“Dr. Soney, to you and your staff and the trustees, I want to say I am so grateful,” Davis said. “I appreciate it so much.”