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Former mayor hits the high notes
Shirley Says
shirley 11
Dean and Bud Blount (Dean is the mother of RH Police Chief Billy Reynolds) - photo by Photo by Richard Bates
About 200 people gathered to say goodbye and thank you to Richard Davis last week at the Richmond Hill City Center. Davis retired from city government on Jan. 5 after 31 years of public service.
A planning committee headed by Mr. Jimmy Burnsed was responsible for organizing the event. The evening was celebrated with a magnificent dinner catered by The Wilderman Group and a memorable roast of the former mayor by many of his friends. Local entertainers Larry Barker and Hank Miller provided delightful music.
Born in Clyde, on July 1, 1935, Richard and his family moved to Richmond Hill when he was 5 years old and he has lived here since.
His Mom and Dad were exceptional people; together they raised 17 children. He fondly remembers his mom, “She made homemade biscuits every day for the whole bunch.”
From the time Richard was a teenager, he developed a daily habit of reading the local newspaper. It was then he became actively, even aggressively, interested in community affairs. His father, Rad Davis, was always interested in politics and current events, and made the biggest influence on Richard’s life. He is quick to tell you he respected his dad as much or more than any man he’s met. Without blinking, he says, “I was always an ‘activist.’ My daddy was somewhat of an activist, too. Although he had very little education, he was one of the smartest people I’ve been around.”
Graduating from Richmond Hill High School in 1953 was a milestone for him. He was a member of the first graduating class required to complete 12 years of school. He jokingly said, “They saw my classmates and me coming, so they added another year. They knew we weren’t ready to be turned out!”    
As early as 1962, when Richmond Hill’s population was about 500 people, he began the successful effort to get Richmond Hill chartered by the state as a municipality. Interestingly, he did not live within the city limits at that time.
Richard became a member of the Richmond Hill City Council in 1979 and served for 10 years. In 1989, he was elected mayor and served for 21 years. He talks about those years, “I can’t recall missing a meeting in 31 years. However, I may have been late once or twice.”
The biggest accomplishments for former Mayor Davis and the things of which he’s most proud of playing a crucial role in are:
- Richmond Hill Nursing Home.
- Removal of long distance telephone toll to Savannah.
- Waste Water Project.
- Reduction of city property taxes
- Construction of city hall
- The Seafood Festival - biggest yearly event in Bryan County.
- J. F. Gregory Park - The crown jewel.
As he endeavored to see these goals achieved, he was met with much skepticism. Knowing Richmond Hill would reap the benefits he was not deterred, just more determined. His clear blue eyes grew intensely serious for a moment, “I don’t listen to certain skeptics!”  
It’s important to Richard that people see him as he really is. He speaks from the heart, “Let me tell you the way I’m built. If I’m your friend today, I’m your friend tomorrow. The easiest thing to do on this journey we’re on, and I’m getting near the end, is to make friends. For some it means doing what they want you to do and saying what they want you to say. That’s not a true friend. I know I have a lot of friends and I know who they are!”
He obviously knows what it takes to be a real friend and a successful mayor. He succinctly gives up the secret in one sentence, “The only way a mayor can be successful is to surround himself with good people and then do his best to keep them in a happy working environment!”
Thursday night was very special to the former mayor, Speaking with palpable earnestness, he said, “I don’t know if I deserve this wonderful party. I appreciate everything that has been done. The only regret I have is that my Mama wasn’t here.” (Mrs. Madlene Davis died August 27, 2009)
The crowd refused to let the evening end before Richard sang a few songs. To everyone’s delight, in a remarkable Johnny Cash style, he sang ‘Folsom Prison Blues.’ Next he sang one of Merle Haggard’s hits. The crowd erupted in an approving applause when he prefaced the song with, “I don’t know what happened to me along the way, but ....‘Mama Tried’!
Thank you for everything, Mr. Davis!
Shirley Hiers was born and raised in Richmond Hill. You can reach her at See photos of the event at
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