WWI Profile: Elmer Davis 1898-1970

NC WWI Service Card
Elmer Davis was born in Southport, the son of Reverend John Richard Davis and Mary Swain.

Previous posts introduced the Students’ Army Training Corps and his fellow corps member from Southport, Oliver Banks.

Like Oliver Banks, Elmer did not become eligible for the draft until the registration of September 12, 1918. His draft registration shows he was living in Southport, employed as a fisherman for a fishery based in Jacksonville, FL.

Elmer Davis’ signature on his draft registration:

Elmer met the physical and educational requirements of the SATC, volunteered, and was accepted. Oliver, Elmer, and John Rivers Smith served in the SATC at Negro Agricultural and Technical College (now NC A&T State University) in Greensboro. Read the previous posts for details.

Elmer was honorably discharged on December 12, 1918.

The 1920 Census shows that he had returned to Southport to live with his parents and resume fishing.

In 1930, he was living in Fernadina Beach, FL, with his wife and children, again employed as a fisherman. His employer was a fertilizer plant.

This photo is from 1938, courtesy of the Southport Historical Society. “Menhaden workers playing checkers – Nehi Gore, Elmer Davis, Frank Jackson, Joe Reaves, Joseph Parker, Rapael Parker, Capt. John Erikson C. 1938”

John Eriksen is also a WWI veteran from Brunswick County.

Elmer had returned to Southport when the 1940 Census was taken, living on St. George Street with his family.

He passed away on July 17, 1970. He is described on his death certificate as a retired storekeeper. Details such as this allow more specific searches to be performed. Several references to him were found.

In a March 16, 2001 article on the online State Port Pilot, an Elmer Davis’ Cafe was mentioned, located at the corner of St. George and Caswell streets in Southport. This is apparently the cafe of Elmer Davis, WWI veteran. Excerpt shown below.

The [McKenzie’s] confectionery was the oldest venture in the heart of what once was Southport’s district of black-owned, black-operated businesses, around the intersection of Howe and St. George streets, in the early 1900s.

Twenty-five of them — grocery stores, cafés, dance halls, dry cleaners, a mortuary and more — thrived into the mid-20th century or later with as much success as their white counterparts.

Today, each is listed by name on a marker the Southport Historical Society installed outside LeClerc’s Ladies Boutique, whose building is the former site of McKenzie’s Confectionery. The building — and the ice shaver — remains in Adams’s possession.

The Southport Historical Society has a map available to locate the black businesses during that time period. A small section is shown here. Elmer Davis’ Cafe is marked as #14. To see the full map and description, click on the link.

On March 12, 1941, State Port Pilot included this sentence in the Not Exactly News section on page 4. “Elmer Davis, colored fisherman, has opened up a Cafe and we can bear witness that his wife’s cooking is swell.”

He was chosen as an air raid warden in Southport during WWII, according to this article in the December 17, 1941, edition of the State Port Pilot.

In February 10, 1943, the State Port Pilot article, “Raise Funds for New Sterilizer” lists Elmer and wife Maverick as donors for the new sterilizer at Dosher Memorial Hospital.

And finally, according to Liz Fuller from the Southport Historical Society, he served on the executive board of the Southport Colored Citizens League in the 1940s, working for justice and equality in the schools.

Elmer Davis was laid to rest in Smith Cemetery in Southport. A small flat marker is located there. However, there is no indication of his military service or his many contributions and leadership in the Southport community.

To view this or an earlier profile or snapshot at any time, click on the veteran’s name on the WWI Brunswick County Veteran list, which is also accessible by the blue button on the top right of the webpage.

If you would like to help us honor Elmer Davis or another Brunswick County WWI veteran, please use the following links:

Click here for the announcement:
Announcement: Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran
Click here for directions to donate and honor a veteran:
How to Honor a Brunswick County World War I Veteran

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