Willie J. “Flash” Davis passed away Wednesday, June 19, 2019 at the age of 83. A resident of Newton, Massachusetts and native of Fort Valley, Georgia, Davis graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia in 1956. Prior to earning a Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1963 from New England School of Law, he was a member of the United States Army, and in 1971, following his time as Assistant Attorney General (Massachusetts) and Assistant United States Attorney, he was appointed United States Magistrate. In 1976, he began a successful criminal defense practice, litigating nearly one hundred first-degree murder cases and literally thousands of other matters for clients. Appellate Court work resulted in over two hundred cases argued before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court.
A believer in service to his community through his profession, a value instilled while in college, Davis was a lecturer at the Massachusetts State Police Academy from 1965 to 1978, and during the period between 1968 and 1980, an instructor in the College of Law Enforcement at Northeastern University in Boston. Additionally, he served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Committee for Public Counsel Services for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. Fraternity memberships included Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., the National Association of Guardsman, and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity (Boule).
While at Morehouse, Davis met his wife, Carolyn during a trip she made to visit her aunt who was a professor of English at the College.
Throughout his life, Davis was committed to his alma mater serving in a number of capacities. As an active alumnus, he was president of the Greater Boston Chapter of the National Alumni Association, regional vice-president of Region IV of the National Alumni Association, and president of the National Alumni Association, a role that allowed him to serve as a member of the College’s Board of Trustees. He spent several years as Vice Chairman of its Board of Trustees, and later as the Chair of the Board.
Named one of Boston’s Ten Outstanding Young Leaders by the Boston Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1971, other honors and recognition for Davis include three honorary degrees from New England School of Law (1972), the University of Massachusetts at Lowell (1973) and Morehouse (2012). Although he was very proud of his professional accomplishments and service, he was most proud of his family, friends with whom he shared a work life, and those he guided and mentored, including nieces and nephews. He was also appreciative of the bonds forged with a host of relatives and long standing friends.
If Davis were asked about the source of his nickname, he told stories of athletic accomplishments in football and track during his undergraduate time that earned him the moniker “Flash” and in 1998, induction into the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) Hall of Fame. In 1954 and 1955 he won the Conference track title for the 100 yard dash. During a football game in 1954, the public address announcer shouted, “There goes the Fort Valley Flash!” as he set the SIAC record for the longest run from scrimmage (94 yards), a record that stood for 38 years.
As recipient of Morehouse’s Medal of Distinction in 1991, along with the honor of being selected for the Bennie Award for Trailblazing in 2003, Davis considered himself forever linked to one of his favorite people, the longtime Morehouse president, Dr. Benjamin Mays. He often quoted Dr. Mays as though he carried a personal set of his recordings.
Of the many activities in which his family and he engaged, none sparked more enthusiasm than the New England Patriots. This fandom, which began as a quest for good meals, blossomed into a friendship with two original Boston Patriots, the late Houston Antwine and the late Jim Hunt. Davis was a season ticket holder for close to 50 years, introducing his children and then grandchildren to the tradition of spending autumn Sundays watching games, whether at the stadium in Foxborough or in a room at home. The tradition included quirky superstitions – from watching from the same seat in a different room of the house from other family members, to restricting ticket access to relatives and guests who previously attended a game with him that the Patriots lost. In 2010, the Patriots marked his years as a fan and his seventy-fifth birthday. In the fall of 2018, he received a commemorative football from the Patriots, noting his 25 year connection with the current ownership.
Davis is survived by his wife Carolyn, of Newton, his daughter, Kristen, of Simpsonville, South Carolina, his son, Roland, of Newton, and two grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held on Monday, July 1st at 1 pm at the First Baptist Church, 848 Beacon St., Newton, MA. To honor his memory, any donations may be made to the scholarship fund of the Greater Boston Morehouse Alumni Association gbmcaa .
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