After Bob Dewine died at Easter, I was talking to his son-in-law about how sad it was to see many of the pillars of our church community growing older and leaving us. I knew then that Doc Davidson had not been doing well, and I was dreading his loss. I’m not sad for Doc, who lived a full and happy life, and who is surely in a better place now. But I’m so sad for his loving family and for his extended family–the members of the Knights of Columbus, the kids at St. Joseph School and Knoxville Catholic High School, the parishioners at Immaculate Conception Church, his Sunday School class at Mt. Zion, the black community and the medical community of Knoxville. He enriched the lives of so many people.
I remember Doc in his 4th degree regalia leading the KOC at the Martin Luther King parade and the March for Life. I remember him in his white doctor coat in the clinic at St. Joseph. I remember him in the football ticket booth at KCHS (he’d done that for over 30 years!). I remember him every Sunday at 11:30 Mass serving as usher at Immaculate Conception and often serving pancakes afterwards.
Doc had already had a full and interesting life before he ever set foot in Knoxville. I recall him telling the story of the time he was working in an emergency room in New York City and found that the stabbing victim he was treating was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Just yesterday I googled his name and found a bonanza: a transcript of an interview of him for a Veterans’ History Project that covers his life from his birth in 1923 up into the 60s in Knoxville. Included are stories of growing up in a mixed neighborhood in New York City, his military service including the shock of segregation, his memories of the civil rights era in Knoxville, and much more.
In his own words, Doc was a staunch Catholic, and he was honored by Pope Benedict for his service to the church. No one could have deserved such an honor more. He was also honored in the secular realm when a community center in East Knoxville was named for him.
And Doc was a gentleman. My husband said this morning that he never heard Doc say a harsh word about anyone. His was a calm voice of reason at KOC functions and Pastoral Council meetings: he spoke with wisdom and everyone respected as well as loved him.
The family will be receiving friends this evening at Unity Mortuary. The funeral Mass will be celebrated tomorrow morning at I.C. at 11 a.m. And Doc will be laid to rest at Knoxville National Cemetery. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.