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2019 Year-in-Review: Saying goodbye to everybody’s best ‘Buddy’

Death of Leader’s O.K. Davis, donations from his estate, some of 2019’s top stories
Thursday, January 2, 2020
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Leader file photo
            Pictured is the late O.K. “Buddy” Davis (center) with two of the many sports figures he covered throughout his 55-year career - former Louisiana Tech standout and NBA Hall of Famer Karl Malone (left) and former Tech star and Pro Football Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw.

The death of O.K. “Buddy” Davis, the Ruston Daily Leader’s Executive Sports Editor Emeritus, on July 13 at the age of 72 is one of the Leader’s top stories of 2019, as are the numerous philanthropic donations Davis’ estate has made in the months following his death.

Even after suffering a stroke in 2013 that left him only with partial use of his right arm and hand, Davis kept on writing, hammering out weekly columns and blogs using only his index finger to type on an I-Pad.

Former Ruston High baseball player and head baseball coach George Stone grew up with Davis, and the two were inducted into Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame together in 2013. Stone said he feels especially fortunate because of the longtime friendship they shared.

“He is very special to me … always has been,” said Stone, who pitched for the 1969 World Series champions New York Mets. “We went to Ruston High together. We went to Louisiana Tech together. To have someone who was a friend from seventh grade on, and have that person write about your playing career — not many people have that kind of close personal friend write about you.”

Former Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters head basketball coach and fellow Tech Athletics Hall of Famer Leon Barmore knows what Davis meant to Lincoln Parish.

“There is no question that we as athletes and coaches owe him so much because he made us all look a lot better than we really were,” Barmore said about Davis. “He promoted all of us, and Louisiana Tech and Grambling State owe him a lot. The second thing is, he was the most positive sportswriter I’ve ever read. It was always ‘those loveable Bearcats’ or Bulldogs or Grambling Tigers; I appreciated that. And finally — and not many people know this if you didn’t take the Ruston Daily Leader all those years, but this guy covered everything. He might be at an 8-yearold Little League game, and then he’d head to spring football practice. His brush was so broad; he reached so many people, and they loved him for it. And I did too.”

Davis started his more than 55-year career at the Daily Leader as a part-timer while still in high school. Over the years, Davis wrote about many athletes with ties to Lincoln Parish or Louisiana.

He blazed trails in the 1960s, daring to do what not many other white sports writers were willing to do — cover a Historically Black College/University in Grambling State.

“I raised this man, this is my son,” legendary Grambling football coach Eddie Robinson told Sports Illustrated about Davis in 1996.

Davis wrote a Sports Illustrated cover story about Louisiana Tech quarterback Terry Bradshaw in 1971.

He covered everything from the Olympics to NBA All-Star Games, Super Bowls, Final Fours and Tball tournaments. He crafted tens of thousands of bylined stories, winning well over 100 awards in national, regional and statewide contests.

He was named Mr. Louisiana Basketball by the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches in 2010. In 2013, he was inducted in the Louisiana Tech Athletics Hall of Fame and was named the University’s College of Liberal Arts Alumnus of the Year (he graduated in 1969). Davis was honored by the Ark-La-Tex Museum of Champions.

He earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Football Writers Association of America, and was recipientof theLSWA’s highest honor, the Mac Russo Award, and held a Life Membership from that organization. Davis was a Hall of Fame selection committee member since the panel’s inception in the mid-1970s and remained engaged until his passing.

He was also honored in 2017 by the Grambling Legends organization.

After touching so many lives while alive, Davis didn’t stop following his death.

His estate has donated over a half-million dollars to causes dear to Davis, including the Louisiana Tech athletics department, the Grambling State athletics department, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home, the North Louisiana Military Museum, the Ruston High School Alumni Association, and 4 Paws Rescue.