Friday, January 13, Southern Utah University will kick off its spring Convocation Lecture Series with a returning favorite, Reverend France Davis.
One of nine children, Davis was born on his family’s farm in eastern Georgia. Twenty years later, he became a U.S. Air Force mechanic. Upon release from the military, Davis enrolled as a full time college student. However, his path looks far less conventional from there.
With ambition to spare, Davis took 15 credits each from 5 different schools all at the same time and graduated, early, from all five institutions. His majors included ministry, rhetoric, religion, arts and humanities, African-American studies and communications. The broadened perspective he gained inspired Davis’ life’s work, and the reverend has spent a great deal of his life working to make the world a better place for those around him.
He first began his efforts by marching in the civil rights movement and cites the work he did alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and hearing his “I have a dream!” speech as “the most exhilarating and exciting experience of all of (his) lifetime.”
Since, Davis has worked to promote the memory of Dr. King by serving as chairman of the committee that was influential in creating a federal holiday in King’s honor. His work also resulted in the naming of a major street after Dr. King.
Davis will be speaking this year at SUU just days before King’s birthday and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday at 11:30 a.m. on Friday in the Gilbert Great Hall of SUU’s Hunter Conference Center.
Not only a promoter of African-American rights, Davis has built housing for low-income seniors, sponsored various education programs and founded the Opportunity Industrialization Center, which trains individuals that are unemployed or at a dead-end job for better employment and more productive work.
Davis is currently the head pastor at the historic Calvary Baptist Church in Salt Lake City and serves on various city and national boards. He is also an instructor at the University of Utah, teaching various communication and ethnic courses. He lectures frequently, speaking on a wide variety of subjects, and has written several books, including "Light in the Midst of Zion: A History of Black Baptists in Utah." His autobiography, "France Davis: An American Story Told," will be available for purchase at the convocation after the lecture as well as at the SUU Bookstore.
From humble beginnings and through obstacles ranging from military service to battle for civil rights, and now as one of Utah’s most respected citizens, Davis has had a profound impact on those around him. SUU’s students and the surrounding community will glean much from his experience and enthusiasm in Friday’s Convocation.
As always, the Convocations Lecture Series is free and open to the general public. The series, in its thirtieth year this 2011-12 academic year, brings noted personalities from across the globe to share their experiences and insight with SUU students.