A Tribute to a Mentor

two adults diverse

Pictured here are my three mentors. Of course, on the left is Dr. Fred Davis who passed away on May 12, 2020 at the age of 86.  Next to me is Dr. Verley Sangster of Denver Colorado and former vice president for Young Life. Dr. William Pannell, retired professor at Fuller Seminary is on the far right.

I am posting this because of the importance of mentors, not just for young people, but for all of us. Fred Davis took me under his wing in Orange Mound in 1977 when I was just starting Young Life at Melrose High School. Not only did his blessing hook me up at the school, but in the churches, businesses and people of Orange Mound. He was instrumental in helping get Memphis Leadership Foundation off the ground in 1987 as an original board member, serving until 2017.  He was on board at Christ Community Health Services, giving his wisdom and support to the staff and doctors there as well. He was a founding board member when MLF established the Memphis Center for Urban Theological Studies. And all of this is just the tip of the iceberg. Civil Rights leader, city council member and chairman, first African American owned Insurance company and I could go on for some time!

I never made a major decision without Fred Davis’ input and advice. I’ve never met someone who could parse a situation as deftly and quickly as Fred.  He was the picture of a perfect mentor. He always asked great and deep questions. He wanted to get to the bottom of an idea, see how it made sense…or in some cases didn’t. Only once did I make a decision that he thought might not work…and it didn’t.  But he never said, “I told you so.”  He just patched me back up and we kept on doing our work. He was generous with his time, his talent, his connections, his resources….but most of all with his mind. Roshun Austin who is the CEO of The Works, suggested he was a genius.  I think she is right.

Fred Davis was a mentor to many including Howard Eddings, CEO for MLF until recently when he started a new ministry in Orange Mound, RedZone Ministries, Eli Morris, senior associate pastor at Hope Presbyterian, Roshun Austin, the late Timothy Russell, associate pastor at Second Presbyterian and others too many to mention.

We all loved and adored Fred Davis. No finer man lived in this city on the River.  He touched us in ways that will continue to resonate for the years to come.  Memphis has lost a hero and we mourn his loss while celebrating a life well lived. He loved his family well, his city and his God.  Heck he’s probably mentoring some angels now!




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