Veteran Commissioner succumbs

Published 3:44 pm Saturday, March 27, 2010

AHOSKIE – The strongest voice advocating for Hertford County is silent today.

Hertford County Commissioner DuPont L. Davis, who was known across the nation as someone who loved and worked tirelessly to promote his native county, died unexpectedly at approximately 1:30 a.m. Thursday at Roanoke-Chowan Hospital

Davis had spent more than two decades serving the citizens as a commissioner, a position which he dearly loved.

“It’s been an honor to serve the people of Hertford County,” Davis said just over a year ago when he was honored for 20 years of service as a commissioner. “For the people of my home county to have faith that I can do the job has been humbling.”

The loss of such a giant in local politics is being felt especially hard in Davis’ native Hertford County. While leaders and civilians struggle with Davis’ untimely death, they are remembering him as a man who loved his family and loved Hertford County.

“It’s a sad day for Hertford County,” Herford County Commission Chairman Johnnie R. Farmer said. “DuPont loved his family, his kids and grandkids above everything else. Next to them, he loved Hertford County and did whatever he could to make it a better place to live.

“We’ve become close friends over my time on the board and I’m really going to miss him,” the chairman added.

The three other Hertford County Commissioners were also saddened by the loss of Davis.

“Not only has Hertford County lost a good man, but the entire state of North Carolina has,” Commissioner Howard J. Hunter III said. “He was not only for the citizens of Hertford County, but the whole state. Those who didn’t know DuPont missed out on knowing a great man.

“He had a good heart and he would do anything to help people,” Hunter said. “He will be missed not only by his family, but his political family that stretches across North Carolina and the country. He was my mentor, my friend and sometimes he was like a father to me. I’m glad I had the opportunity to serve with him.”

Commissioner Curtis A. Freeman concurred.

“I learned a lot from DuPont,” Freeman said. “He was one of the most knowledgeable commissioners that I know or have known. He was basically a walking encyclopedia when it comes to county government.

“He truly cared about Hertford County,” Freeman continued. “In my opinion, he based his life on Hertford County and doing what he could for the citizens of the county. Pretty much everything he did and said in county government was to benefit the citizens.”

Commission William F. Mitchell Jr., the newest member of the board, said he was appreciative of having had the opportunity to serve with Davis.

“When I think of the late Commissioner DuPont Davis, I will cherish the memories that I had during the short time we worked together,” Mitchell said. “DuPont loved Hertford County and he loved his family. “

Mitchell said on a recent trip, Davis talked to him about the responsibility of being a commissioner.

“He said, ‘You know, Bill, service in a complicated thing. You please some and some you don’t, however, as long as you can lay your head down on your pillow at night knowing that you made the best decision for the people, that is all you can do’,” Mitchell said.

Those who lead Hertford County government also expressed their admiration for Davis and the way he had helped lead the county in his 20-plus years of service as a Hertford County Commissioner.

“He had such an impact on people with whom he came into contact, not just as a government official, but as a citizen” Hertford County Manager Loria D. Williams said. “He just had a resound impact. I think for us even today, the loss is still quite unknown.”

Williams said Davis was a wonderful man, as well as public servant.

“He worked tirelessly to make sure the needs of the county were met, but as a friend, husband, father and grandfather, he was equally strong,” Williams said. “He did what he loved to do from the days of integration through serving as president of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners. He lived a life he loved and treasured.”

Assistant County Manager Patricia Weaver worked with the county the entire 21 years Davis served.

“I really enjoyed working with him,” Weaver said. “He was very knowledgeable and he cared deeply about Hertford County and the citizens and employees of the county. He will be deeply missed not only locally, but at the state level.”

Hertford County Economic Development Director Bill Early was introduced to the commissioners in his post the same day Davis took the oath of office for the first time. They served together from that day until Davis’ death Thursday.

“DuPont was a very strong person,” Early said. “In most cases, when he wanted to get something done, he’d find a way to get it done.”

Early said Davis’ work often helped with his job in economic development.

“I knew with economic development, he would be there,” Early stressed. “I knew any time I needed a strong voice for economic development he would be there.

“He always had the best interest of the citizens of Hertford County at heart,” he continued. “I never questioned his commitment to the betterment of the county.”

The Hertford County Board of Education also lost a great supporter, according to Board Chairman Ronald Baker.

“I can certainly say we’re all saddened to hear of Commissioner Davis’ death,” Baker said. “He was a great friend to education in Hertford County. His support of Hertford County Schools as a member of the county commission will be sorely missed.”

Davis was particularly supportive of Hertford County High School where he spent 37 years as a member of the Hertford County Athletic Association.

HCHS Athletic Director Charles Simmons said that support couldn’t be put into words.

“It’s a sad day for Hertford County High School,” Simmons said. “He really supported our athletic program as well as the community. In all the time I’ve been here, DuPont always stuck right in there with me.”

David Shields, who serves as president of the Hertford County Athletic Association, said he had worked with Davis in a variety of ways for nearly three decades.

“I’ve known DuPont for 30 years probably,” Shields said. “He has been an active member of the athletic association for even longer than that and obviously was very active politically.

“The best thing about DuPont Davis is whether he and I agreed or disagreed on something, you never doubted the fact that he loved Hertford County and what he was doing he thought was the best for Hertford County,” he added. “I think sometimes when people are in office for 20 years or more, they lose perspective, but that never happened with DuPont. He was proud of Ahoskie, his heritage, the Atlantic District Fair and of being from Hertford County. He never lost his roots.”

Linda Blackburn had the opportunity of serving with Davis as both Director of Aging for Hertford County and as Mayor of Ahoskie. She said in both of those roles, she found him a person who loved Hertford County and did what he could to make it better.

“I believe with all my heart that no one loved Hertford County more than he did,” Blackburn said. “If you stayed around him, you would like Hertford County too. You could differ with him on how to get from point A to point B and he’d work with you, but you could never doubt his love for Hertford County. I’m going to miss him.”

Another person who knew Davis on multiple levels is Hertford County Sheriff Juan Vaughan who served in that role and knew Davis as a personal friend.

“Hertford County has lost a pioneer,” Sheriff Vaughan said. “He was one of the closest friends I had. Though the years, we have not always agreed, but he always did what he thought was in the best interest of Hertford County.”

Sheriff Vaughan said he talked to Davis on a daily basis and had gleaned much knowledge from the commissioner.

“You can fill the vacancy on the board of commissioners, but you’ll never fill his seat,” Sheriff Vaughan said. “He leaves giant footprints and a legacy that his family will always be proud of.”

Davis also worked closely with Dr. Ralph Soney, the president of Roanoke-Chowan Community College.

“For me, he was an outstanding mentor and professional friend,” Dr. Soney said. “I didn’t know him before I came here, but he really opened his arms to me. I don’t think he was so much helping me, but that he loved Hertford County and knew how important the college can be.

“I’m going to miss him tremendously,” Dr. Soney added. “His loss will make our work here at the community college a little hard, but he has left a great legacy.”

Davis was also a mentor to a variety of men in Hertford County. Two of them – Ronald Gatling and Quinton Turman – said their lives were forever changed.

“It’s a great personal loss to me,” Turman said. “He was not only a great friend, but was also a great mentor. He taught me how to love and appreciate the things of Hertford County. When you’re around someone who loves something with so much passion, it will start affecting you as an individual and gets into your spirit. You learn how to love with that same type of passion.

“Not only was he doing it for me, but for so many other young men that he was giving that loving mentorship to – men like Howard Hunter III, L.C. Hoggard, Ronald Gatling and so many others,” he added. “I’m so happy to have been able to spend quality time with a man of his stature. I will always have love in my heart for Mr. Davis and his family.”

Gatling said he had known Davis all of his life.

“I knew DuPont before he was an elected official,” Gatling said. “We used to work together and I played in his back yard as a kid. I probably had a different relationship than some of the public officials.

“Politically, yes, he was an icon in Hertford County, but as a man, he served as a mentor and friend,” Gatling added. “The community has lost a political leader, but I have lost a personal friend.”

Gatling said Davis believed in church, family, community and an education and that he tried to help anyone who would help themselves.

In 2009, Davis was honored as Citizen of the Year by Roanoke-Chowan Community College. At that time, Davis was honored for his service to Hertford County as well as the state and nation.

Just a few of his affiliations included: past president of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, Founder and Chairman of the Dr. Joseph D. Weaver Scholarship Foundation, President of the Atlantic District Fair, Member of Jerusalem Masonic Lodge #96, former Mason of the Year, former Worship Master of the Year, member of the Advisors for the Judicial System in North Carolina and a member of the United States Trotting Association for 40 years.

Davis is survived by his wife, Earline Powell Davis; two sons, Derrick and Dexter and two daughters, Donica Thompson and Dedria Davis-King.

A public viewing is planned for 4-7 p.m. Sunday, March 28 at Reynolds Funeral Home in Ahoskie. A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. Monday at New Ahoskie Missionary Baptist Church.