I’m sorry I never met Lonnie Davis. The man truly is a legend, a legend after whom more people should pattern their lives.
For the past few weeks I’ve interview folks about Davis and listened to others share how he was a part of their lives. Davis was dedicated to his family, his school, his friends and his community. Davis had dreams, but still made time to help others accomplish their goals.
Those who showed up to honor him recently shared stories all referring to him as “friend” and “mentor.” They recalled events where Davis rightfully should have been angry or at least disappointed, but instead he turned the situations around and helped the person who wronged him.
His children and grandchildren remember him as “tough as nails, funny, hardworking provider, entrepreneur, talented athlete and musician, practical, caring, helpful, groundbreaker, a true friend and although he did not display a lot of open affection, he was also a very loving man.” Another said, “He wasn’t a perfect man by any standards, but he was a perfect father and role model to many of the children who resided in the close knit north side community of Poplar Bluff. To me my 6-foot, 4-inch tall father was a giant of a man who carried himself strong yet caring. I was always elated to share him with others.”
As a man of color and an athlete, he felt such negative racial overtones, but he did allow them to cloud his life or the minds of the youth. He realized that would be more detrimental to their lives than to the development of their character.
Listening to the people he taught to work, as well as how to give, and challenged them to reach their potential made me think. I know I would have benefited from knowing him. People saying Davis didn’t tell the youth what to do but helped direct them down the right road. One saying desegregation in 1963 was a smooth transition in Poplar Bluff because of individuals like Davis. Another described him as “a community leader, friend, a man of his word and a man with a loving heart. He was a profound leader in this community. He made a difference. We need more leaders like him in the world. To me, he was my friend.”
All the good things he did for his community made me stop and think. I agree we need more people like him. I am challenging myself and everyone in community to become more like Lonnie Davis. Most of us will never have opportunities to lead a community peacefully through desegregation and help young athletes reach their full potential and play in a national arena, but we are all able to perform small acts of kindness. Acts which will make the community a better place to live and make someone’s life better. You may never know how a small act of kindness or encouragement you show to others today may change their lives.
Let’s continue Lonnie Davis’ legendary spirit in Poplar Bluff.