Jesse “J.J.” Davis Jr., taught and coached for nearly 40 years before he retired in 1998.
By Michelle E. Shaw
In his 40 years as an educator, Coach Jesse “J.J.” Davis likely did more life coaching than anything.
He primarily coached basketball, but at one point or another he had his hands in any and every sport offered by the different schools where he worked.
“He basically coached whatever they needed him to,” said his wife Juanita Davis.
And while coaching sports and teaching health and physical education were his primary duties, he spent a lot of time giving students advice they could use for the rest of their lives.
“It wasn’t just about us being good athletes, he wanted us to be good people,” said Michael Johnson, a former Fulton County Superior Court judge. “He wanted us to understand the importance of getting our lesson and doing what was right, and it didn’t matter if it was basketball season or not. He was a student favorite.”
Jesse J. Davis Jr., who had Parkinson’s Disease, died Dec. 9 at Summerset Assisted Living in Atlanta after a period of declining health. He was 81. A funeral is planned 11 a.m. Thursday at Antioch Baptist Church North, Atlanta. Murray Brothers, Cascade Chapel, is in charge of arrangements.
Born in Asheville, N.C., Davis came to Atlanta to attend Morris Brown College. He played sports in high school, and continued in college, his wife said. His studies were interrupted by World War II, and he left school to serve in the Army for two years, but returned to Morris Brown once his service was complete.
“I like to say he came back for his degree and me,” Juanita Davis said, with a laugh. “And he left Morris Brown with both.”
The couple married Dec. 24, 1961 and eventually reared two children together during their nearly 51 years of marriage.
In the early ‘60s, Davis started his coaching and teaching career at Fairburn High School. He taught there until he went to Campbell High School in the early ‘70s, which was also in Fairburn. By 1982 he was coaching and teaching at Westwood, now Westlake, and by the late ‘80s he was at Tri-Cities, where retired as the school’s athletic director in 1998.
“Coach Davis was such a helpful person,” said Peggy Beatles Knight, a retired physical education teacher. “One day while I was a student at Fairburn High, he saw me shooting basketball in the gym. I had this strange hook-shot, but he pulled me to the side and said, ‘I got a shot for you,’ and he showed me a jump shot, which changed my basketball career, but he did that for me and he wasn’t even my coach.”
In addition to his wife, Davis is also survived by his daughter, Judy Davis Carroll of Atlanta; son, Joel J. Davis of North Charleston, S.C.; brother Arthur Davis of Asheville; and three grandchildren.