By T. Scott Boatright
Famed late Ruston sports writer O.K. “Buddy” Davis will be one of the people inducted to the Grambling Legends Sports Hall as part of the seven-member Class of 2021.
This year’s Grambling Legends ceremony will be held virtually in what Grambling Legends, Inc. President Howard Davis and Grambling Legends Hall of Fame Director Ruby Higgins termed “an abundance of caution due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was no 2020 induction because of the pandemic, so this year’s ceremony will officially induct the Grambling Legends Class of 2020 and 2021.
Joining Davis in the Class of 2021 are Robert Barber (football), Lee Fobbs (football), Dwight Scales (football), Willie Williams (football), Wilmer Sigler (baseball), and Kenneth Simpson (basketball).
The Grambling Legends Class of 2020 consists of Andrew Glover (football), Michael Moore (football), Carlos Pennywell (football), Albert Hartwell (basketball), John Jeter (baseball), Vergie Broussard (contributor) and Daniel Washington (contributer).
This summer’s induction ceremony will be conducted via Zoom on July 10 and will include all of previous induction component parts with the exception of a meal.
Davis was was a trailblazer covering other trailblazers in the heart of the civil rights movement. In the 1960s and ’70s, Davis was willing to do what few other white sportswriters were willing to do — cover Historically Black Colleges and Universities with the same passion he wrote about other Lincoln Parish sports.
As many friendships as Davis, who passed away in 2019, made in Grambling over the years, it was that relationship with Coach Eddie G. Robinson that may have shined brightest. They were more than friends. Robinson was a pallbearer at the funerals for each of Davis’ parents. Simply put, Davis and Coach Rob were family. And Robinson said just that in a 1996 Sports Illustrated article on the GSU team as he neared the 400-win plateau.
“When Coach Rob talked to Davis after Friday’s practice, he put two fingers in the waistband of Davis’s dungarees and said to a bystander, ‘I raised this man, this is my son,” that article said.
Robinson’s grandson Eddie Robinson III said he’s excited to see Davis become a true Grambling Legend.
“To honor Buddy’s memory this way is wonderful … tremendous,” Robinson III said. “Buddy was the ultimate gentleman and was considered one of the top sports writers around. I knew of his fondness for my grandfather and certainly how very, very fond my grandfather was of him. That relationship itself was something really special. Buddy told the world all about my grandfather and Grambling as a whole.”
While he loved covering Grambling during the turbulent 1960s into the ’70s, Davis admitted during an interview a few years ago that not everyone appreciated the attention he gave to Grambling athletics.
“Some people didn’t like it, but it was a great story — look at what Rob had done,” Davis said. “I mean, he had accomplished so much and Grambling was nationally known, so why not cover them. “Yeah, there were some people I’d catch flak from. They’d ask, ‘What are you doing writing about the Blacks? Why are you doing that?’ Particularly when we ran photos. That really unnerved some people.”
But as someone who followed Grambling athletics while growing up in Ruston, Davis didn’t concern himself with the way others thought.
“I’d hear so much about players like Tank (Younger) growing up,” Davis said during that interview. “And Fred Hobdy coached Willis Reed and other greats to the 1961 NAIA national championship when I was in high school. Ruston and Grambling were kind of different than many towns in the South in those days because while it was obviously still there, there didn’t seem to be quite as much of the open, hateful racism that you saw in other areas. There were many people in Ruston who had friends in Grambling.”
Doug Williams, the first Black quarterback to win a NFL Super Bowl and a current vice president of the Washington Football Team, was one of those Grambling athletes Davis shined an early spotlight on.
“He’s been a legend from day one,” Williams said of Davis. “Since I was at Grambling — a long time ago, 43 years ago — Buddy was right there. Anything that came out about Grambling, Buddy knew it ahead of time. Buddy was always on top of whatever happened at Grambling no matter who it was. I didn’t realize for a long time that he covered anybody else.”
“Think about it, we’re talking about a white guy covering Grambling back in the day where that kind of thing just usually didn’t happen,” Williams said. “That was before my time. I know he was a big help to (famed Grambling sports publicist) Collie J. (Nicholson). Collie J. got it out there to all the Black newspapers and media, but Buddy kept it out there in front of white folks, too, that would read about what was going on at Grambling. Buddy always knew the right guys and girls to write about and the right words to write.”
Former Grambling Associate Athletics Director and College Baseball Hall of Fame Coach Wilbert Ellis established a lifelong friendship with Davis during their journey together.
“Buddy was there for us, for Grambling, back in the day where it was not popular for him to be that way,” Ellis said. “Buddy would travel with football and baseball, all of it. He and Collie worked together very close. Buddy was always trying to help promote the athletes, not only in Grambling but anywhere he found an athlete who needed people to know about them. Buddy was always ready to do it. There was only one O.K. Davis, and Grambling can never thank him enough. He was one of the ones that helped put Grambling on the national — the worldwide — map.
“But more important for me personally, Buddy was family. He was always there.”