Capt. Willie Ray Davis

1924-2006

 

Captain Willie Ray Davis is an inspiration to us all. Please enjoy and be inspired by his history below.

 

Willie Ray Davis, Austin's first black Fire Department captain, died Monday morning of emphysema, according to longtime friend Louie White, a retired Austin police captain. Davis was 82.  Willie Ray Davis, who was one of the original three firefighters hired on Sept. 2, 1952, will be present. Mr. Davis advanced to the rank of captain before retiring in 1983 with more than 30 years of service. The other two firefighters initially hired were Nathaniel Kindred, who died at the scene of a house fire in 1977, and Roy Greene, who eventually resigned and now is deceased. In an essay Davis wrote when he was new to the force in the mid-1950s, he said he became a firefighter because as a child he would ponder why none of the faces peering from the fire trucks was black. He recalled that he and his friends would never dream of being firemen; they associated it with a white child's dream.

 
Jeff Cohen, president of the Austin Fire Department Museum, said Davis won firefighter of the year in 1966 for rescuing a baby from a burning building. Eight years later, he became a captain, making him the first person of color to hold the honor. "He was a trailblazer when he made rank; it opened up a lot of doors for us," said White, who went on to be one of the first black captains in the Police Department. White, who was friends with Davis for 60 years, recalls that times were hard for them when they started in their positions. "When you try to supervise a race of people who had never been supervised by black people, you have a lot of problems," White said. Cohen said he has yet to encounter someone with as much character as Davis. He also cited Davis' hiring as a monumental steppingstone. "He wasn't just a token; he was just some guy who happened to be black, and he was a great person and a great firefighter." Davis, a World War II veteran, served 30 years before retiring. He fought fires for 25 years before spending his last five years in the fire prevention unit. Brother Willie will be greatly missed.

 


Additional Info

The wake and funeral was attended by many. Officials and media alike was in attendance to pay respects. A news article and clip are below for your review.

News funeral videos

Texas Cable News Link

Past arrangement details

Pre-celebration (Wake)

Friday night July 7th 2006

7:00pm

Austin Peel and Son Funeral Home -  607 East Anderson Lane.

 

Funeral

Saturday July 8th, 2006

11:00am

St. James Baptist church - 3417 East MLK Jr. Blvd

Burial site location is Evergreen Cemetery located at 12th and Airport Blvd.

 

 

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