It was on a Monday, Sept. 18, 1939, in Pollard, Arkansas, that Edgar and Ruby Davis welcomed their seventh child into the world, a bouncing baby boy, that they named Gerald Ray. His older siblings, three brothers and two sisters – Harold, Lewis, James, Juanita and LaWanda – all welcomed their little brother into an already active household. They would later add one more child to the nest, a sister named Carlotta.
As all the kids grew, their lives started following different paths. Interestingly enough, all three boys would choose to go into ministry. Gerald, who would love sports for his entire life, played football in high school. During his senior year, he had a powerful encounter with God, and felt the call to ministry on his life. After graduation, he went to Pentecostal Bible Institute, in Tupelo, Mississippi, to study the word of God and prepare for ministry. While there, he met an adorable south Louisiana girl named Patricia Ann Lawrence. It was pretty much love at first sight, and on Sept. 12, 1959, they were married at her home church, in Bogalusa, Louisiana, and began a journey of life and ministry together, that would cover hundreds of thousands of miles around the world, over the next 57 years.
Their union produced four children – Geron, Jeffrey, Alyson and Angie. Both of them were musical and loved to play and sing. Consequently, their home was always filled with music, and all the kids learned to sing harmony at an early age.
The Davis family would follow their patriarch as he pastored churches in Brookhaven, Mississippi, Lucedale, Mississippi, Ovett, Mississippi, Columbus, Mississippi, Richton, Mississippi – and then his final move to Savannah in 1973. He pastored New Life Church (formerly First Pentecostal Church) for 40 years, and retired two years ago, in 2013. He was then given the title of Bishop. During his four decades in Savannah, he served on the Tennessee District Board for the United Pentecostal Church, served as the Home Missions Director for the Tennessee District, and served as a member of the International Home Missions Board, for the United Pentecostal Church. He served as chairman of the Hardin County Ministerial Association numerous terms, and also as the Director of the Ministerial Association’s Christmas Food Box Drive for several years. He also served as the chaplain for the Hardin County Fire Department.
His son, Geron, married Becky Cannon, and gave him two grandchildren, Gerica and Neiman.
Jeff married Tammy Malone, and gave him two grandchildren, Adrian and Courtney. Adrian married Christy, and gave him his first great-grandson, Macon.
Alyson married Shelton Lovern, and gave him a granddaughter, DeAnndra – who married Kyle McKinnley.
Angie married Jon Erickson, and gave him three granddaughters, Alanna, Megan and Gabriel. Alanna married Evan Milby.
To his wife, children, grandchildren, great-grandchild, nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws, friends, church members, and community fellow citizens – he was an iconic leader who loved his Master, loved his family, loved his church, loved ministry . . . and loved people. All people. All races, generations, all backgrounds. The impact of his ministry and life will be felt long after he’s gone. One thing that everyone who knew him will agree on is this – to have had the opportunity to have intersected lives with Gerald Ray Davis – was a blessing you will never, ever forget.
Services were held on Monday, Nov. 7, at 6 p.m., at New Life United Pentecostal Church in Savannah. Burial followed in Memory Gardens at Savannah.