DAVIS, WILL DAVID (1929 ~ 2016). The following is an obituary for Will David Davis, former member of the Texas State Historical Survey Committee, the Texas College and University System Coordinating Board and the State Board of Education. The obituary was provided by Weed, Corley, Fish Funeral Home of Austin.
Will David Davis, Sr., 87, was welcomed home by his Lord and Savior, and his beloved wife Ann on December 12, 2016. Born July 18, 1929, in Houston, TX, to David Davis and Nita Barnett Davis, Will was a loving and inspiring soul that left an impression on everyone he came in contact with. Will lived in Bedias, TX, until moving to Austin in 1934. In 1939, at the age of 9 and while living through the Great Depression, Will became the youngest Page to ever serve in the Texas Legislature, working to help provide income for his family for 3 sessions. Will was a lifeguard throughout high school and college at Barton Springs Pool. There he met many distinguished Austinites and also his future wife of 57 years, Ann Byargeon Davis, whom he married in 1954. .
He graduated from Austin High School in 1948 where he went on to play football for Lamar University and then Baylor University. Will was on the 1951 Baylor football team that played in the Orange Bowl. He received his BBA-LLB (JD) degrees cum laude from Baylor University in 1954. In the spring of 1953, he was elected President of the Student Body, thus beginning his long life of public service and enjoyment of the legislative process.
Will began his law career as the Assistant Attorney General in 1954 until 1957, and then was appointed General Counsel of the Texas Department of Insurance by Governor Price Daniel in 1957. In 1960, Will joined his uncle, W.W. Heath, as a partner in law. This firm became Heath, Davis and McCalla, and he would practice law there until 2010. He then continued with Thompson Coe, "Of Counsel," until recent retirement. He represented major insurance companies, insurance holding companies and insurance trade associations, and served as outside general counsel and on advising boards of directors and management for several insurance companies. He was active in representing insurance company clients before the Texas Legislature, served as the insurance industry representative, and was responsible for drafting the legislation regulating insurance holding company systems. He was a member of the interim committee appointed by the Texas Legislative Council to rewrite the Texas Insurance Code.
Will's clients included AIG/American General Insurance Companies, American National Insurance Company, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, Lexon Insurance Company, National Western Life Insurance Company, USAA and Americo, Inc. In addition, Will was a former member to Boards of Directors of Dillard's, Inc., Capital National Bank, J.P. Morgan-Chase Bank of Texas, N.A., Investment Advisory Board, and American National County Mutual Insurance Company.
In politics, Will was Chairman of the Texas Democratic Party (1965-68) and of the Texas State Democratic Conventions of 1966 and 1968. He was also active as a delegate to both state and national conventions and served in many campaigns and on many Governor's Inauguration Committees from 1961 - 1991.
Because his mother had been a teacher, Will always felt a pull to serve in public education and to support teachers and educators in any way that he could. This began his "other career" in public education leadership. Will was President of the Board of Trustees of the Austin Independent School District for three terms, 1970-74, 1980-82, and served as a member of the AISD Board for 16 years, 1966-1982. During this period, he helped guide the Austin schools through major enrollment increases, two successful bond elections, major new school construction, two new superintendent searches, and racial desegregation and integration of the schools. In 1991, the AISD built and named the "Will D. Davis Elementary School." Will was always very proud of the Davis Dolphins.
At the state and national level, Will was President of the Texas Association of School Boards in 1974 and served as an officer for 5 years. In 2000, the Texas Association of School Boards named its office building the "Will D. Davis Building." He was President of the National School Boards Association in 1978 and served as an officer for 7 years. He was instrumental in relocating the NSBA offices to Washington, D.C, and giving the public schools a strong voice in the nation's Capitol. He was a member of the 1983-84 Governor's Select Committee on Public Education, which made recommendations for major reforms that were adopted by the Legislature in the 1984 Special Session as House Bill 72. He was Vice-Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education, 1993-94, and Member of the Board, 1983-84, 1989-2000.
Will served as Chairman, 2004-2006, and member of the Board of Regents of Baylor University, 1972-82, 1998-2007. He received Baylor's 1985 Distinguished Alumni Award, the 1992 Price Daniel "Pro Texana" Distinguished Public Service Award and the "Pro Texana" Award, 2014. Will always gave Baylor University and Abner McCall much credit for shaping the direction of his life and therefore wanted to return the favor with his time and talents.
One of the original seven founders of Austin Community College in 1971, Will was the first President of its Board of Trustees, serving three terms, and remained a board member for 10 years, 1972-1982. During Will's tenure, ACC enrollment grew to more than 20,000 students and became one of the largest community colleges in Texas (43,000 students today). He was very proud that they were able to save the Rio Grand campus of the old Austin High School, where he attended, and to make it the flagship building for the college.
Over the course of his life and career, Will received numerous awards for both his legal and public service work, each one as special to him as the others. He taught young married couples in Sunday school for many years at Hyde Park Baptist Church, and his family still hears from those couples today. Texas and Austin will miss this great statesman.
Above all, Will was a loving husband, father, grandfather (G-Dad) and friend. Throughout his life, Will's character and reputation reflected his high moral standards, devotion to God and his fellow man. He was a fun father and wise teacher of life lessons. He valued time with his wife and children more than anything else. He made sure that they spent many wonderful vacations together hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park and snow skiing in Aspen and Crested Butte. He also dearly loved Lake Austin and water skiing.
Will gave his family many memories on the lake over the years that continue to be shared with his grandchildren. His deep love of both Colorado and Lake Austin are gifts that he has bestowed on both his children and grand-children that will continue to be shared with his great-grandchildren. He was devoted to his wife and children always and his character motivated us all to be better.
Will was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Ann Byargeon Davis. He is survived by his children: Lisa Davis Davis (Jeff), Lynn Davis Walker (Bill), Will Davis, Jr. (Susie); nine grandchildren: Katelyn Baroch (Brad), Allie Frazier (Brent), Becca Jahnke (Kyle), Bill Walker, III (Whitney), Davis Walker (Leanne), Natalie Betzer (Drew), Will Davis, III (Amy), Emily Boone (Kenton), Sara Regan (David); and five great-grandchildren: Davis and Blake Baroch, Annaleigh Frazier, Mary Carson Walker and William "Liam" A. Walker, IV. Will is also survived by his sister-in-law Kathryn Byargeon of Chappell Hills, Texas.
The family will receive friends from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 14, 2016 at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, North Lamar.
Funeral services will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, December 15, 2016 at Hyde Park Baptist Church, 3901 Speedway, with Dr. Will D. Davis, Jr. officiating. Private family burial at the Texas State Cemetery will be later that afternoon.
Memorial contributions may be made to Austin Christian Fellowship, the Davis Endowment Fund at Baylor University or to the charity of your choice.
The family would like to extend their deepest gratitude to the nurses and care-givers at Brookdale Westlake Hills and Brookdale Hospice.