By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
Family, friends, former players, city and state officials attended the formal dedication of the playing field of Norfolk’s Booker T. Washington High School football stadium renamed in honor of the late Coach Calvert D. Davidson.
The event took place on August 28 prior to a game in which the Fighting Bookers lost a close game against Denbigh High School in the 2015 gridiron season opener.
The keynote speaker at the event was the Rev. Todd C. Davidson, the son of the late coach, and pastor of Cleveland, Ohio’s Antioch Baptist Church.
Rev. Davidson commended the “togetherness” and “unity” of the Norfolk community in working to have the facility named in honor of his father.
In July, 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 four other varsity sports.
Davidson died in May of this year. 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 in the community to persuade the school board to rename the field in Davidson’s honor.
Cook said he collected 300 names on that 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 emails, personal contacts, and outreach to political and civic leaders.
“This was a tribute not only to Coach Davidson’s legacy as a coach and a mentor, but also to this school, the students and the community it services,” said Malcolm “Zeke” Avery, the President of the BTWHS Friends and Alumni Foundations, Inc. Board.
“We need to do more of this,” he continued, “to show what our true mission is to this school, which is to support it, its students and faculty anyway we can.”
Among the notables at the event was NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Smith, who played most of his career with the Buffalo Bills. Smith was a BTW football star under Davidson.
“This was a great event,” said Cook. “We gave honor where honor was due. I think that the alumni, friends and family were really pleased.”
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 opinions for the application.
Newly elected school board chairman Rodney Jordan said, in this case, there was 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 requests 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.
The coach 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, one of the strongest supporters of the board’s action, was 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 as a Senior Pastor 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 two original Historically Black high schools in Virginia, which existed before the state desegregated its public schools and are still existing.
The others 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.”