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Former Councilman and renowned businessman Fred L. Davis dies at 86

Fred L. Davis, owner of the Fred L. Davis Insurance Agency and the first African American to serve as chairman of the Memphis City Council, has died. The TSD’s story is developing.

Mr. Davis passed around 2:15 pm on Tuesday, May 12, 2020, at the home he has shared with his wife for more than 50 years. He had been ill for several months. He was 86.

A staunch advocate for the economic empowerment of African Americans, Mr. Davis is the namesake of the Fred Davis Innovation Center in the refurbished Universal Life Building. Mayor Jim Strickland said that before he ran for mayor Mr. Davis shared some sobering statistics that affected policy his administration embraced to support African-American businesses.

“I’ll never forget when he told me, ‘If I added up all the business transactions in the city of Memphis, one percent is spent with African Americans,’” Strickland recalled. “That’s wrong on so many levels in a city that is predominately African American. If you want to grow the city, you have to grow black wealth.”

Known around Orange Mound as an advocate for uplifting and changing his neighborhood for the better, Mr. Davis opened Charity’s House in 2018. It was named after his late mother.

Read: Charity’s House is a beacon of support in Orange Mound

Born on May 8, 1934, Mr. Davis had just turned 86. The New Tri-State Defender interviewed him shortly before the MLK50 celebration

Fred L. Davis: Turning 50 times three

Fred L. Davis Insurance Agency was the first African-American, independent insurance company in six states – Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama and Missouri – and one of the first in the South.

Mr. Davis graduated from Manassas High School before earning an accounting degree at Tennessee State University.  He met his wife, Ella Singleton Davis, on campus and later married her. He is a U.S. Army veteran.

Mr. Davis leaves his wife and three children, Michael Davis, Marvin Davis and Sheila Davis.

(Check back with TSDMemphis for our developing story on the legacy of Mr. Davis. Read more coverage in this week’s print edition of The New Tri-State Defender, which is distributed on Thursday.)


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