In fact, many teachers in the county had only earned two-year degrees, while others only had high school diplomas.
Davis changed that.
“I discovered when I got here to Hall County in the ’50s that I had three teachers here who had just graduated high school,” he said. “... I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something about this.’”
Davis approached the state school board at the time with a plan to ensure teachers were better equipped and qualified. Within three years, teachers were required to have a four-year degree.
Today, 94-year-old Davis wants to continue to help teachers better themselves for the sake of their students.
Per his direction, the newly created C.W. Davis Scholarship will be administered by the North Georgia Community Foundation. Davis Scholars will be select teachers in Hall County who seek advanced degrees and who commit to further their careers in public education.
“You can’t teach what you don’t know,” he said. “Teachers have to be educated to educate others.”
Davis served as superintendent of Hall County Schools from 1977-1983. He started in the county in 1953 as principal of Flowery Branch School. After four years, he opened South Hall High School, where he worked for 11 years.
From a young age, Davis valued reading and learning. He learned how to read before starting school, and by first grade he was reading at a third-grade level.
Davis said from the time he was only 3 years old, he was “a unique situation.”
“I collapsed one day and the doctor started to cover me up and said, ‘the boy is gone,’” Davis said. “My grandmother held a mirror before my mouth and they saw I was still breathing.”
The doctor warned him that he would likely live his entire life with an enlarged heart, making activity difficult.
Yet those heart troubles didn’t affect him for nearly 90 years.
After graduating from Lavonia High School, Davis earned his bachelor’s from Piedmont College in Demorest. He would eventually go on to earn a master’s from Vanderbilt and to complete a six-year specialist degree in school administration from the University of Georgia, but not before joining the Air Force during World War II.
“I said to my friend, ‘What in the world are we doing in college when the (Japanese) and the Germans are going to run over us?’” he said.
By the time Davis joined the Hall County School District in 1953, he was not only the most educated principal, he was the most educated person in the system.
After nearly 30 years working in the system, Davis went to work for the State Department of Education, traveling all over Northeast Georgia to help teachers and principals improve the quality of classroom teaching.
One of Davis’ former students and teachers, the Rev. Phil Carpenter, said the words that come to mind when he thinks of Davis are “authority, compassion and competence.”
“He was always good to teachers, and to students. I was a student of his back in ’59, ’60 and ’61,” Carpenter said. “He always involved students, parents, teachers and principals.”
Carpenter was a student at South Hall High School while Davis was principal, and later worked as a teacher at Johnson High School while Davis was superintendent.
Carpenter called Davis a strong leader and strong decision maker.
“As long as I’ve known him —and I’m 71 now— I’ve never known him to apologize for doing what’s right. That’s a great example,” he said.
Davis said he firmly believes a person must be properly educated to survive.
“I had a doctor tell me the better educated you are, the longer you will live,” he said. “There are eight children in my family, and I’m the only one left. Two others went to college, but I’m the only one who finished.”
He said his hope for foundation and the new scholarship is simple: to help people live better lives.
“To help teachers do that is what I’d really like to do,” he said. “There is nothing better you can do for yourself than get an education.”