RUSTON — In his Hall of Fame sports writing career, O.K. “Buddy” Davis wrote countless thousands of stories, many which earned him awards and all which earned him affection from those he covered in Lincoln Parish, and far beyond.
It was a two-way love affair. As much as his subjects treasured the tales Davis typed for publication over a half-century in the Ruston Daily Leader, Buddy savored the chances to spotlight them and built lifelong friendships along the way.
Almost six years to the day after a debilitating stroke in July 2013 – which slowed, but certainly did not halt, his prolific content output — Davis passed away this summer at age 72. Even considering his incredible legacy, it turned out he saved his most remarkable story for last.
His estate has donated over a half-million dollars to causes dear to Davis. The list of recipients is headed by the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation, which will receive $100,000 to support the six-year-old, 27,000-square feet, world-class Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum at 800 Front Street in Natchitoches.
He also willed monetary gifts to the Eddie G. Robinson Museum on the Grambling campus, Louisiana Tech Athletics, and other Ruston-based entities: the Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home, the North Louisiana Military Museum, the Ruston High School Alumni Association, and 4 Paws Rescue.
FEATURED PHOTO: Shown in the O.K. Buddy Davis Media Room at Louisiana Tech’s Joe Aillet Stadium are (front row, left to right): Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland, Betty Lou (widow of LSHOF member Scotty) Robertson, Hall of Fame Foundation CEO/president Ronnie Rantz, former Ruston Daily Leader publisher and executor of the Davis estate, Rick Holht; Daily Leader sports editor Scott Boatwright, Dr. Pat Garrett, son of the late LSHOF member “Hoss” Garrett; (back row, l-r) Eddie Robinson III, grandson of the iconic Grambling football coach; LSHOF members Bert Jones and Leon Barmore, columnist and Louisiana Tech representative Teddy Allen, LSHOF member Aaron James, Nan McJamerson, niece of the late LSHOF member Fred Hobdy; and LSHOF members Willis Reed, Fred Dean and Keith Prince.
Recently, Buddy’s longtime friend Rick Hohlt, the former Ruston Daily Leader publisher, joined several Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame members and family members, along with LSHOF Foundation officials and sports writing companions of Davis, as a $94,500 check was presented from the estate. The remainder of the gift will be completed next spring.
It is the second-largest individual gift ever to the Hall of Fame Foundation, said Hall of Fame chairman Doug Ireland.
Davis, himself enshrined in the LSHOF as a 2009 recipient of the Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism, became a legendary figure far beyond Lincoln Parish in his 55-year writing career based in Ruston. He covered everything from the Olympics to NBA All-Star Games, Super Bowls, Final Fours and T-ball tournaments. He crafted tens of thousands of bylined stories, winning well over 100 awards in national, regional and statewide contests.
He was named Mr. Louisiana Basketball by the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches in 2010. In 2013, he was inducted in the Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame and was named the University’s College of Liberal Arts Alumnus of the Year (he graduated in 1969). Davis was honored by the Ark-La-Tex Museum of Champions. He earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Football Writers Association of America, and was recipient of the LSWA’s highest honor, the Mac Russo Award, and held a Life Membership from that organization. Davis was a Hall of Fame selection committee member since the panel’s inception in the mid-1970s and remained engaged until his passing.
Already a part-time member of the Ruston Daily Leader staff while in college, he became sports editor after graduating and never left, despite several appealing offers to move up in the sports journalism world. He wrote stories for several national publications, including Basketball Times and Sports Illustrated, but had no desire to leave his hometown, his friends and family, and the remarkable sports landscape in Lincoln Parish.
“It was my job – and it was my pleasure. I made special friends for life, doing what I was supposed to do,” Davis told his acclaimed LSWA friend, Marty Mule, for a chapter in Mule’s 2013 book “Game Changers – The Rousing Legacy of Louisiana Sports.” Davis and trailblazing African-American sports journalist R.L. Stockard of Baton Rouge were the only two non-athletes featured among 78 chapters penned by Mule’.
Davis was extremely proud, and amazed, that 57 of the 433 members of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame hailed from his home parish, including athletes, coaches and staff at Grambling and Louisiana Tech (four more are among the Hall’s Class of 2020). Each time that number grew, he took out an ad in the Hall of Fame commemorative program welcoming the newest star he had covered, and listing all of the others.
Ten of those attended or were represented at the check presentation, with many others sending regrets due to schedule conflicts or other obligations.
Taking part were LSHOF members Leon Barmore, Fred Dean, Aaron James, Bert Jones, Keith Prince and Willis Reed. Barmore and Reed are enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Dean is part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Family members attending were Dr. Pat Garrett, representing his father “Hoss,” the great Ruston High football coach; Nan McJamerson, niece of the Grambling basketball coaching legend Fred Hobdy; Betty Lou Robertson, representing her late husband, former Tech and NBA basketball coach Scotty Robertson; and Eddie Robinson III, on behalf of his grandfather, Grambling’s iconic “Coach Rob,” who Davis considered “like a father to me.”
Also on hand were Buddy’s colleague and successor at the Ruston Daily Leader, Scott Boatwright, and his dear friend Teddy Allen of Louisiana Tech, along with LSHOF Foundation CEO/President Ronnie Rantz, Gracen McDonald of the LSHOF Foundation, and Ireland.
The gathering was held in the O.K. “Buddy” Davis Media Room at Tech’s Joe Aillet Stadium. The area was named for him at the outset of the 2017 football season. The room’s large rear wall, measuring 12 feet tall by 40 feet wide, includes five panels of photos, each panel representing a decade and documenting Buddy’s career with photos of Lincoln Parish competitors he covered, some with personal inscriptions.
Davis’s career is already documented in the inductee data base at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame museum. A special acknowledgement of his gift will be added in the shrine, which he was thrilled to see in its grand opening at the end of June 2013, just two weeks before he was stricken at his home in Ruston.