By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
On August 28 when Norfolk’s Booker T. Washington High School football team faces off against Denbigh High, the game will take place on the Calvert W. Davidson Field at the school’s stadium.
On July 15, the Norfolk School Board. voted 4-3 to name the school’s football field to honor Davidson, who coached not only football at the school from 1973 to 2000, but also four other varsity sports.
Davidson died in May. His son-in-law and former Norfolk School Board member Billy Cook said he started a petition drive on the day of the funeral to marshal support for the school board to name the field in Davidson’s honor.
Cook said he collected 300 names on that first day, and eventually managed to secure about 1300 signatures on the petition he presented to the school board.
He said he and other supporters of the idea waged a lobbying effort, driven by email, personal contacts, and outreach to political and civic leaders.
Supporters of the idea had to overcome a Norfolk Public Schools (NPS) division policy which only allows for the naming of buildings 10 years after people die.
The policy was first adopted in 2013. The process also calls for a public hearing to gather voter opinion for the application.
Newly elected school board chairman Rodney Jordan said, in this case, there is no policy for naming facilities such as football fields and stadiums.
He said the board would have to devise one in order to confront future request for naming such facilities.
But Cook and others mentioned that the basketball court at Norfolk’s Maury High School was named for that school’s former basketball coach, Ted Bacalis, while he was still alive.
Bacalls died last winter.
Cook, his wife, Sharon, and others expressed relief and satisfaction at the board’s granting an exception to its policy.
Davidson died May 3, 2015, at age 77. He was born in Gaffney, South Carolina, but his family moved to Norfolk where he attended Booker T. Washington High School. He graduated in 1957. He attended Maryland State College, which is now known as University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
Davidson eventually returned to BTW where he coached football, women’s basketball, softball and track and field and assisted in coordinating other activities.
He was also a teacher and guidance counselor.
During his tenure as head football coach, NFL and college stars such as Bruce Smith, James Church and Carl Painter played for him.
Davidson’s wife, Doris, recalled that Smith was not interested in playing football. But her husband coaxed him into playing the sport, “even going to his home and getting him out of bed on many mornings.”
He was also the school’s “disciplinarian,” according to Zeke Avery, who was BTW’s head basketball coach at one time. Avery was one of the strongest supporters of the board’s action. He was also an assistant football coach under his friend Davidson.
“He did not coach boys; he worked to build men. This is a well deserved honor. Nobody worked harder than Cal Davidson,” said Avery.
“He was always at that school. He was always working with the kids. He and I were the school disciplinarians. Each Wednesday the kids would dress up like they were going to church. That was a different time.”
Davidson’s wife, Doris, now lives in Cleveland, Ohio. Several years ago, their son who was hired to pastor a church in that city, moved his parents to Ohio.
“We are so excited about that happening,” said Mrs. Davidson. “The only sad thing is that he did not live long enough to see this happen. But God does answer prayers, and I am sure he is happy.”
Norfolk’s Booker T Washington High School and Portsmouth’s I.C. Norcom are original Historically Black high schools in Virginia, which existed before the state desegregated its public schools and are still operating as high schools.
Most other historically Black high schools were either closed, converted to other uses and/or torn down.
“Cal was working all the time,” said Mrs. Davidson. “I had to force him to take a vacation. And even when we took a vacation, before we left town, he would stop by the school to check on something. He was more a part of that school culture than anyone.
Avery said he and other members of the BTW Alumni Association will be working on getting the school’s alumni to attend the August 28 dedication ceremony.
Preliminary indications, according to Rodney Jordan, are that the scores from the Standards of Learning (SOL) Examinations taken by Booker T. Washington High School students will be the best in some years.
Jordan hopes that the naming of the school football field will compliment the good news about the SOL test scores which may be announced in full in early September.
“This is going to be a very important event,” said Avery. “We hope every Booker T. graduate in the area will attend to show our pride and help the current students appreciate this school’s history and heroes like Calvert Davidson.”