In Memory: Former Trustee Ouida Caldwell Davis ’51

December 19, 2012

Mrs. James Hornor Davis III, Ouida Caldwell Davis, died at home December 14, 2012, in White Sulphur Springs. Born in Huntington on May 3, 1928, Ouida Smith Caldwell was the daughter of Emma Akers and Nicholas Smith Caldwell. Namesake at special request of her aunt, Ouida Caldwell Watts, she was the youngest and only surviving grandchild of James Lewis Caldwell, a founding pioneer of Huntington and early force in the development of southern West Virginia railroads, coal mining and banking. Following the death of her father in 1929 and remarriage of her mother to Baxter N. Shaffer in 1932, she moved to Charleston. In 1950, she married James Hornor Davis III. Following his law school education at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and military service in Dover, Del., they returned to Charleston and raised two sons, James Hornor Davis IV and Lewis Caldwell Davis.

Mrs. Davis attended Charleston schools, The Greenbrier College for Women in Lewisburg and Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, Va. Mrs. Davis served almost 20 years on the board of trustees of Mary Baldwin. In 1971 she was honored with the Emily Smith Medallion, the distinguished alumna award. In 1995 she received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, presented among various schools for service, character and spiritual contribution. She also served on the WVU Foundation board of directors and undertook various fundraising activities on behalf of WVU, especially the Mary Bab Randolph Cancer Center. For many years she served as the head of the Associates (Spouses) for her husband’s Princeton University Class of 1950 and was an active reunion participant.

Mrs. Davis was a lifelong dedicated volunteer and community activist undertaking numerous local, regional and national leadership roles. In the 1960s, despite her Republican roots, she also actively campaigned with and supported her husband as a Democrat in the West Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate. Her only notorious disagreement was his vote in favor of daylight savings time when it began as a state option. It passed by one vote — and she was known never to have changed her clocks and perpetually ran on standard time.

A person of strong faith, she was especially active in her church communities. Raised in her parents’ First Presbyterian Church in Charleston, she became an Episcopalian upon marriage. A Sunday school teacher and Guild member, she was the first woman to serve on the vestry of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church and among the first to serve in the diocese. She also served in many Episcopal volunteer positions, including president of the West Virginia Episcopal Church Women. She was especially proud of her Emmaeus Chapel project, a mobile chapel able to travel throughout the state to promote the growth of the church. She served as a special lay assistant (and frequent tennis partner) to Bishop Wilburn Campbell and received a Bishop’s Certificate of Commendation. Interested in national Episcopal Church activities, she was active in support of the building of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and served as national vice chair for the Cathedral Board. In 1984 Mr. and Mrs. Davis built a home at The Greenbrier, where Mrs. Davis became a full-time resident following the death of her husband in 2004. During the 1980s and 1990s she was active with St. Thomas Episcopal Church in White Sulphur Springs. In the late 1990s she returned to her Presbyterian roots, serving as an elder of the First Presbyterian Church of White Sulphur Springs and as an active Circle member traveling throughout the state on the Commission on Ministry.

In Charleston, she was active in many organizations. Her early interests included serving as a volunteer aide in Charleston public schools and as a board member of the Humane Association and the Red Cross. She also served as an early UNICEF liaison (undertaking a special study trip with the UN to Guatemala). A music lover, accomplished pianist and accordion player, she volunteered with the Community Music Association and the Light Opera Guild. An avid gardener, she was president of the Briar Hills and the Kanawha Garden Clubs, also serving on committees with the national Garden Club of America Board of Gardeners. The Junior League may take credit for some of her leadership skills and she served among other positions as president of the Charleston League and in some national committee roles. A descendant of very early-18th century Virginia settlers, she was a strong patriot and active in the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America. She served for many years as president of the NSCDA resident in West Virginia, on the board of regents for Gunston Hall, the home of George Mason (patriot and drafter of the Bill of Rights), as regent for Sulgrave Manor (the English homeplace of the Washington family) and was also on the board of Dumbarton House.

In White Sulphur Springs Mrs. Davis was privileged to serve on the board of the library and Main Street and also in Lewisburg with the Greenbrier Valley Theatre. Her generosity and hospitality won her friends from all walks of life. She was a more than 50-year member of Edgewood Country Club, Farmington Country Club and a longtime member of Coral Beach and Tennis Club, The Greenbrier Golf and Tennis Club and the Sulgrave Club.

Above all else she was a devoted friend, loving and loyal wife, mother and grandmother. She is survived by her two sons, James Hornor Davis IV, his wife, Frederica Miller Davis, of Charleston and Aiken, S.C., and their daughters, Frederica Morgan Davis of San Francisco, Calif., and Faith Maxwell Davis of Boulder, Colo.; Lewis Caldwell Davis and his partner, Elizabeth Cromwell Secor, and his daughters, Paget Tilden Davis, Warren Caldwell Davis and Baird Brittingham Davis of Wilmington, Del. She was predeceased by her younger brother, N. Baxter Shaffer Jr. and his wife, Nancy White Shaffer Barker, and is survived by her nephew and godson, Nathaniel B. Shaffer III of Portland, Ore., and his family.

The family extends special gratitude to Mrs. Stuart Ann Hanna, her extraordinary caregivers and the many members of The Greenbrier Hotel community who made her life special.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, December 29, at 11 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of White Sulphur Springs, 201 West Main St. A memorial service will also be held in Charleston on another date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Hospice Care, 223 Maplewood Ave., Lewisburg, WV 24901; the Greenbrier Valley Theatre, 113 E. Washington St., Lewisburg, WV 24901; or to a charity of the donor’s choice.

Published by The Charleston Gazette on behalf of the Davis Family