Fred L. Davis and the Rev. Tim Russell were used to being in each other’s company, sharing, among other things, commitments to helping others. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley/TSD Archives)

The presence of “community fathers” is inherent in the concept of village and on Father’s Day 2020 that truth is being spoken of with enhanced vigor.

Two such “fathers’ – prominent businessman and Memphis City Council trailblazer Fred L. Davis, and the Rev. Tim Russell, an associate pastor at Second Presbyterian Church, died recently within weeks of each other. They long had been friends.

The Rev. Keith Norman. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

“Our community, our village, needs the presence of community fathers to guide and affirm, be an example, lead, protect and send,” said the Rev. Keith Norman, pastor of First Baptist Church-Broad Street.

“Our boys are facing racism, and though we have raised our sons, we just can’t walk away.”

“Tim and Fred,” Norman said, were well-learned men, who worked to be financially sound and gave of themselves – time and resources – to uplift those around them.

Norman said community fathers are valuable in helping youth, especially boys, in this time of turmoil.

Davis died at 86. Russell was 63. Both left many spiritual children and youth in their communities and churches, mourning a “father” whose nature was to reach out beyond their own households and touch the lives of those who needed guidance.

As many elders get older and die, the community feels their absence, especially in this day and time, according to one who also considers himself a community father.

“Our community, our village, needs the presence of community fathers to guide and affirm, be an example, lead, protect, and send,” said Keith Norman, pastor of First Baptist Church, Broad Street. “Our boys are facing racism, and though we have raised our sons, we just can’t walk away.”

“Tim and Fred,” Norman said, both put themselves in a position that they did not have to depend on the community. Because they were financially sound and well-learned, they could give of themselves—their time and resources—to uplift those around them.

Norman said especially in this time of extreme turmoil, community fathers were valuable in helping youth, especially boys.

Davis died at 86 on May 12 after several months of illness. Russell, 63, succumbed to COVID-19 complications on May 30. The two friends maintained a close bond. When Davis suffered a stroke, Russell sat for hours at the hospital with Mrs. Davis.

“Tim was right there,” said Shelia Davis, Davis’ daughter. “He was just like a brother to Dad. It was right about December or January when Daddy had that stroke. But Tim got sick, and he was gone by the end of March.”

Kathe Russell remembers her husband as a nurturer of young ministers.

“Tim had great compassion,” she said. “He mentored many males, Black, White, it didn’t matter. He was a listener, who was committed to showing people Jesus here on earth. That was his calling. He was a pastor. Tim had a shepherd’s heart.”

Marvin Davis remembers his father always bringing boys in from his beloved Orange Mound neighborhood.

“My father loved to teach,” Davis said. “He would have children coming in doing odd jobs and talk to them about working to earn their money and obeying their mothers at home. He tutored with organizations outside the office. He loved young people, and he invested his time and money in helping them. That’s just who he was.”

Artez Henderson, a pastoral resident at Second Presbyterian, said his office was down the hall from Russell’s.

“Bro. Tim was always asking me, ‘What can I do for you? How can I pray for you? Is there any thing you need?’ He was like an older brother to me. I was so hurt when Bro. Tim passed away.

“In those last two years when I joined the staff, he was a tremendous help to me, always praying for me and standing by to help. I miss him every day.”

“Community fathers are the village elders,” said Norman. “They are important in the life of the village. They are a covering to young people, and they freely share the wisdom of many years.

“We all lose a valuable asset when we lose a community father. May God continue to raise others up to serve in their place.”