Postcards: Veteran James ‘Daddy James’ Davis was also our unofficial mayor

By Linda Emley

On Monday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m., The Ray County Veterans will be hosting a Veterans Day Ceremony at the Ray County Courthouse and I plan on being there.
Someone asked me why we celebrate it on Nov. 11? In 1918, on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11 o’clock, an Armistice was declared ending World War I. The following year, President Wilson proclaimed the 11th as the first Armistice Day. The original idea was to have a day of celebration with parades and for everyone to observe a moment of silence at 11 a.m. In 1938, Armistice Day became a legal holiday.
After WW II, some people decided Armistice Day should be a day to honor all veterans and not just those who fought in WW I. It took a shoe store salesman from Emporia, Kan. to get the ball rolling on this one. Alfred King owned a shoe store and after talking to the local merchants, he decided they should start a campaign to change Armistice Day to Veterans Day. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed on the dotted line and it became law May 26, 1954.
This all sounds easy enough, except for a bill passed in 1968. The Uniform Holiday Bill was the beginning of our three-day weekends. This is one of the things that Congress did right. Since it did not matter to George Washington, we changed his birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Columbus Day to always fall on a Monday.
On Oct. 25, 1971, the first Monday Veterans Day wasn’t greeted with much enthusiasm. It was just not the same because Veterans Day was all about the “11th day of the 11th month at 11 o’clock.” It was not about the “25th day of the 10th month at 11 o’clock.”
But then President Gerald R. Ford saved Veterans Day when he signed a law  enabling us to begin Nov. 11, 1978 celebrating the occasion on the correct date. We are very lucky this year because Nov. 11 falls on a Monday, so we will actually be celebrating Veteran’s Day on the right day.
In honor of Veteran’s Day, I’m again sharing the story of James Davis, who was a friend of my father. James died July 10, 2011, and I went to his funeral with my parents. The John W. Carter Lodge # 180 F. & A.M., led by Roger Elliott, gave Daddy James a very proper Masonic send-off.
Many old hymns were sung and a number of people told stories and read proclamations. Mike Wright, the mayor of Richmond, told how he had spent time visiting with Daddy James after work. He would stop by Davis Corner and catch up on what was going on around town.
He said Daddy James would have the baseball game on the radio and he would be working on his Bible study. I wanted to call this story, “Beer, Baseball and Bible Study,” but a better title came along that I will explain later in this story. I had several people tell me that Daddy James did not drink. He always had something else in his glass. Davis Corner was like the Cheers bar on TV. It was a place where everyone knew your name.
One of the stories told at Daddy James’s funeral expressed it for all of us. When James’s daughter Joann got married, there was a parade of cars that drove around town honking as they followed the new bride and groom.
When the procession got pulled over by the local sheriff, Daddy James got out of his car and walked up to talk to him. After Daddy James and the sheriff had a nice conversation, they were told to continue on with their parade. Daddy James’s nephew watched the whole conversation and proclaimed, ”Daddy James really is the mayor of Richmond.”
This story was told at his funeral by that same nephew, who is now Rev. Loyd Fields. I’m sure Mike Wright was proud to have Daddy James as the unofficial mayor of Richmond.
As everyone was leaving the service, the Masonic Lodge made an archway with their Masonic rods and everyone walked under the arch while the congregation sang a beautiful hymn. There is no way anyone could have been there and not felt the love that filled the church. James Davis was a man who walked with the Lord.
The photo on this page was taken Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, 2010 at the VFW hall in Richmond. This is a day I will always remember because it is the day that I got to meet Daddy James. I knew who he was because for many years the VFW color guard came to Hickory Grove Cemetery for Memorial Day and he was one of men who came.
I always went with my grandmother, and we loved to watch the color guard do its 21-gun salute. Since there was always one more cemetery on the men’s list, I never got to talk to them after the service.
When I finally got to meet Daddy James, I felt like I was meeting a living legend. My dad, J.B. Martin, introduced me to him while I was taking this picture and then he told me a story about the two of them.
Back in 1947, they worked in the wheat fields of Colorado together. My uncle Jim Morgan was bailing straw and he took his nephew, little J.B., and some men from Richmond to work for a few weeks that summer. Jim Davis and Lenvil Elliott Sr. were two of the men who went to help.
They all worked side by side in the fields and sent bales of straw back east on railroad cars. But when they went to the

James "Big Daddy" Davis, right, pictured with J.B. Martin, was called "Richmond's unofficial mayor." (Photo by Linda Emley)

James “Big Daddy” Davis, right, pictured with J.B. Martin, was called “Richmond’s unofficial mayor.” (Photo by Linda Emley)

local town of Burlington, Daddy James and Lenvil were not allowed to stay in the motel. They built themselves a straw shelter in the field. My dad said he wanted to camp out with the guys, but his uncle would not let him because he was just a teenager and his mother and grandmother would have a fit if they found out he did not keep little J.B. by his side.
Each evening, they would go to town to pick up supper and then take it back to the guys in the field. Each morning, they would bring them breakfast.
Lenvil and Daddy James were a few years older than my dad, but the guys bonded that summer and they were friends for life. Daddy James told us that many years later he went to Colorado and when he went through Burlington he said, “Remember me?” And drove on through town. Thank goodness times have changed and we live in a country where this discrimination no longer happens.
You know how they say there’s a good women behind every man? Well Daddy James had his wife Georgia. When I went to visit Jim’s daughter Virginia, we had a nice visit with Daddy James’s “adopted” daughter, Karry Fields, and her daughter Katie, who also came over to share stories.
I heard lots of stories but my favorite one was “Georgia On My Mind.” When the kids were all young, Daddy James and Georgia got into a little spat and Georgia packed up and went to Milwaukee to spend some time with her friend, Mary Katharine Subblett Nichols.
Daddy James was left taking care of the kids, but he had help from his wife’s grandmother, Mollie Bass. Georgia called home every night to talk to the kids, but she was still not talking to Daddy James.
Virginia said every time Ray Charles came on the radio and James heard “Georgia on My Mind,” he would cry like a baby as he sang along. Sonny, his son, was just a baby and he would sit on his lap and try to comfort him. The only person who ever called James Davis “Jimmy” was Mollie Bass. Finally when she could not stand it anymore she told him, “Go get your honey.” He packed up and went to Milwaukee and after a week-long honeymoon, they came back to Richmond.
There is one more piece to this story. When Georgia packed up and went to Milwaukee, she only packed up her linens. She didn’t even take her clothes, so Daddy James had to buy her new clothes. He asked her why she took her linens and she said, “just in case,” because she sure didn’t want any other women moving in and using her linens. Georgia was a women who loved her man, but she also loved her linens.

Have a Daddy James story to tell? Contact Linda at

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