by Doug Ireland
Sportswriter O.K. “Buddy” Davis never wanted to make the news … except this one time.
That’s why I am sure he died smiling.
No one had a clue that Orville Kince Davis, best known in his hometown of Ruston as “Buddy,” in all of his 72 years, had money to give. But that became apparent with recent announcements of $100,000 bequeaths from his estate to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Foundation and Louisiana Tech Athletics. The news also revealed Buddy willed major gifts to the Methodist Children’s Home in Ruston, the Eddie G. Robinson Museum in Grambling (“Coach Rob was like a father to me,” Buddy often said), the Ruston High Alumni Association, the North Louisiana Military Museum in Ruston (Buddy’s real dad was a heavily decorated World War II hero) and a rescue dog group in Lincoln Parish.
In the immediate aftermath of the mid-July 2013 stroke that all but immobilized him, Buddy’s closest friends (after his folks passed, he had no immediate family, only a couple of distant relatives) quickly began a fundraising campaign to offset what were going to be staggering, long-term expenses for his care. Sure, he had insurance, but there was a ceiling there that was going to be the first floor of a skyscraper.
Heading the effort and steering all the vital decisions was his dear friend and boss, Ruston Daily Leader publisher (since retired), Rick Hohlt. Following a check presentation to the LSHOF Foundation in the “O.K Buddy Davis Media Room” at Tech’s Joe Aillet Stadium, Hohlt, who handled Buddy’s estate, recalled a shocking discovery that muted the fundraising.
“Buddy had done very well. It turned out we didn’t need to ask other people for money,” he said.
There were no reasons for anyone to know. He lived in his parents’ modest wood-frame house, behind the Starbucks store near the RHS and Tech campuses. Buddy’s wardrobe was sportswriter-frumpy, ball caps nearly ever-present … no new car or truck. Favorite eats? Griff’s Hamburgers, good catfish, free food in the press room.
One of the few clues: he traveled a bunch, coast to coast (and to Hawaii) to cover Tech and Grambling, and even was a credentialed media member at several Olympic Games. Doubtful the Daily Leader was footing much, if any, of that. Even if he was on team flights courtesy of the schools, which was not always the case, there were some expenses to cover.
Buddy was operating under the radar, secretly building up a million-dollar estate far beyond whatever meager salary he drew, never planning to spend it on himself. Sadly, about half his savings went to his care in the six years since the stroke, but that still left a considerable sum that he shared with causes and a few children of people dear to him.
So I’m sure he had a smile when, as his dear friend, Teddy Allen, put it, “Buddy finally ran out of gas” this July 13. He was completely exhausted from six years of having little control over anything other than his right hand, his mind and his attitude. He continued to churn out columns, blogs, tweets, texts and make phone calls, occasionally sidelined by medical complications, but always determined to resume telling sports stories and nurturing relationships like he’d done since he was a part-time Daily Leader scribe in the late 1960s.
Along the way, he became a dear friend to thousands. Some were, or became, famous, folks like Bert Jones, Terry Bradshaw, Kim Mulkey, Karl Malone, Archie Manning, Leon Barmore, Fred Dean, Willis Reed (that’s a very abbreviated list) … all who stayed close in the last six years. There was at least as deep a bond with colleagues, and with kids he had written about during their little league careers, or adults in a bowling league.
Buddy was lovable. And in his farewell, he was true to form. He shared his love, and gracefully ensured that it would be impactful for many years to come.
So if you visit the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame at 800 Front Street in Natchitoches next year and down the road, Buddy will be smiling, and your experience will be even better, thanks to him.