Services to honor and celebrate the life of Billy Ray Davis will be 11:00 a.m. Thursday, May 20, 2021 at the Bixby First United Methodist Church. Family will receive friends for visitation from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. Wednesday evening at Bixby-South Tulsa Funeral Service. Billy passed from this life on Sunday, May 16, 2021. He was 90.
Born June 28, 1930, in the family home in Urbana, Arkansas, Billy Ray Davis was one of seven children born to parents Marlin Edward and Mary Jamima (Freeman) Davis. Growing up in southeast Arkansas, times were tough for the Davis family. To make ends meet, Billy’s dad would work odd jobs to get the family by. Eventually, he received a good job with Lion oil company that would provide them with a company home and that is where Billy experienced living with an indoor water closet for the first time.
Even as a youngster, Billy’s size and athleticism would have him excel in sports. He was one of the best basketball players and long-distance runners to be seen in Arkansas and Louisiana. In fact, he won many awards for his athleticism during high school and was awarded scholarships to attend Louisiana Tech University. An unfortunate auto accident would have Billy refocus his path forward. That, and the attractive Marine Corps recruiter who came to his school may have had something to do with his enlistment and service to country over the next few years.
Following his honorable discharge, Billy returned to El Dorado, Arkansas and married that attractive recruiter and started a family. He soon received a coaching job in northeast Louisiana and his journey with education would begin. He had great success as a coach but decided to return to school himself. He attended Northwestern State University, in Louisiana, where he double majored in Biology and School Administration. Once finished there, he began work in the Oklahoma school system. His first job was in Lone Grove, Oklahoma where he served as Principal. He would go on to be the Superintendent of several other Oklahoma schools including Cement, Healdton, Holdenville, Muskogee, and Okmulgee.
When Billy was at work, he was devoted to that cause. However, when family was around, they were his focus. There are a couple of stories that family members have shared about this family man. One was at the birth of son, Marlin. Upon his welcome to this world, it became apparent that Marlin was RH negative. It was also likely that donor blood would be needed in his early hours. Billy took matters into his own hands as he got in his pickup truck and drove through the town and county looking for donors. He even loaded some of them up and drove them to the hospital and back home. Another cute memory was on a family vacation to California. With their station wagon loaded down, Billy saw a sign that read “Cherry farm, pick all you want.” Billy thought he would teach his children a valuable lesson about hard work. He believed these farmers were looking for workers and that they would be paid for the cherries they picked. By the time this outing came to an end, the family had boxes upon boxes of cherries ready for the farmers. To Billy’s surprise, he found out that he had to pay for the cherries that they had picked. After some negotiating, they headed on to California only to become quickly frightened by a sign near the border banning certain fruits and produce from entering the State. The family began eating and eating cherries along with packing them in every nook and cranny in that station wagon. They were all relieved to learn that cherries were permitted to cross into California, but at the same time were sick of cherries and abstained from them for years after that incident!
There is not enough time or space to begin to tell of the impact that Billy had on others, throughout his career. However, it is certain that the education system of Oklahoma greatly benefited from his years of service. One of the things close to his heart, and that he spent time working toward, was the improvement of education for special needs. Billy always believed that a child was a child and that each deserved the same devotion regardless of their circumstances. A story that shows this attitude happened each time his children received their report cards. When that evening came, every nine weeks, they would all have to visit with dad about their grades and progress. Although his baby girl, Teresa, had Down Syndrome, she too had to wait her turn to visit with dad. He didn’t treat her differently and had very high expectations for each of his children.
Retirement did not slow Billy down! He enjoyed living on his acreage between Okmulgee and Bixby where he planted, grew, and tended to a large garden. He later downsized and made Bixby his home. In Bixby, he became heavily involved in his community. Among other community service awards, he was awarded the Key to the City and the Citizen of the Year award for work he did to help improve flood and drainage issues in and around Bixby. It was also during this time that he served as grand marshal of the annual Christmas parade. Billy was also devoted to the creation of Washington Irving Park and to the Bixby First United Methodist Church. Throughout his time in Bixby, Billy made many wonderful friends. Throughout each of the communities in which he worked and served, Billy was known to be hard working, respectful, and responsible. These were qualities that he embodied from an early age and qualities that continued to appear throughout his lifetime.
Billy passed from this life on Sunday, May 16, 2021. One of the last things he said was that his greatest accomplishment was his family. He was loved by his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. There will certainly be a void in their lives now, but they know that his daughter Teresa Sue is guiding her Dad to his place with our Heavenly Father.
Survived by: daughter Mary Herrington and husband Ron; daughter Debbie Davis; son Marlin Davis and wife Robbie; son Leslie Davis; and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
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