Former Coopertown Mayor Herman Davis Dies, He Was 88
COOPERTOWN, TENNESSEE: Smokey Barn News) – Herman Davis, who served as the Mayor and Vice Mayor of Coopertown between 1998 and 2004, has died, he was 88. His dedicated leadership and commitment to the Coopertown community will always be remembered.
A retired teacher who moved to Coopertown in 1996 with his wife and two step-sons from Chicago, Illinois, Mayor Davis passed away on January 31, 2024. While living in Chicago, Davis was a community activist, running a campaign to close liquor stores in close vicinity to his neighborhood elementary schools. He always worked to improve the community where he lived.
He continued service to his Chicago community by serving in leadership roles as the president of the South Shore Commission and Bryn Mawr East organization in Chicago that ran the Integration Program to prevent housing value decline during a period of racial change.
His community service continued when he moved to Tennessee, saying “yes” when asked by a search committee formed by then-Mayor Ethel Spiller, to finish the term of a resigning alderman in 1998. Before he could sit down after being sworn in as Alderman, Alderman Davis was told to remain standing. He was to be sworn in as Vice Mayor, a position the resigned alderman also held.
During this time Vice Mayor Davis was surprised to learn that so many in the Coopertown community were not registered to vote. With the help of some of his neighbors, he ran a door-to-door campaign to register as many citizens as possible. Two years later, in 2000, Vice Mayor Davis ran for the position of Coopertown Mayor. He did not take the votes of Coopertown citizens for granted. With the help of family and friends, he campaigned for the job. He knocked on doors, held “Meet the Candidate” in the homes of some, and put campaign posters on his vehicle and the vehicles of friends.
According to his family, Davis was victorious against his two opponents, one who ran against him stating, “Coopertown is not ready for a Black Mayor.” Davis would serve the Coopertown community by maintaining the roads, despite having a small budget and no city taxes. He put up the few guard rails and street lights (at intersections) you see today, salted icy/snow-covered hills, found ways to make it more difficult for street signs to be removed by vandals, he ran the police department and at one time even served as Police Commissioner, and found much-needed grant money to fund the city.
“Mayor Davis was a fine man. Always advocated for Coopertown while understanding the importance of regional collaboration. I enjoyed working with him,” said former Robertson County Mayor, Howard Bradley who served from 2002 to 2018. “His heart was with the people he served.”
Davis was born March 3, 1935, to Eva and Ira Davis in Carlton, AL. Herman was raised in Mobile, AL, and had his 10 siblings. After graduating from high school, he moved to Chicago, where he joined the United States Army during the Korean War. In Chicago, he first worked for the United States Postal Service and later attended Chicago’s Teacher College where he obtained his teaching degree and started working as a business teacher at DuSable High School for 38 years.
Davis enjoyed traveling the world, especially with his wife Rita of 29 years. The continent of Africa held a special place in his heart. He enjoyed boating, fishing, and spending time with his family and close friends and was always an ambitious business-oriented man. Davis even founded and ran two puzzle companies that highlighted black historical figures.
“I want to express my condolences to the entire Davis family. I feel your loss. Herman was my friend for the past 20+ years,” said former Coopertown Mayor Sam Childs. “As you know Herman was an activist and had a great skill in the art of persuasion. Sometimes I thought he could convince a wooden fence post it was the Hoover Dam.
“As you also know Herman was the second Mayor of Coopertown. Prior to that he was an Alderman from the First District. A group of citizens including Herman incorporated the town in 1996 to keep a landfill from going in on Highway 49 out by where Oak Pointe is now. As you might imagine the years following incorporation were tough. There were many things the new town had to do to satisfy the town’s needs and the ones imposed by the State.”
“According to Childs, those formal ‘new town’ things were compounded by a group of citizens who wanted nothing to do with the incorporation. — In 1996 the Town had only 4 businesses; three gas stations and one Bar-B-Que restaurant that also sold gasoline and we had no town center. We had no City property tax. We lived mostly on State shared money and a small amount of sales tax. This lack of funds fueled the unincorporate efforts.
“If surrendering the charter had been successful there would be a trash dump out on Hwy 49 and no Oak Pointe. Herman wanted none of that. Before he became Mayor, Herman was the Town’s representative on the county’s Planning Commission. He was there to fight the pressure Custom Land Development was putting on the County Commission. Late in 2000 after being elected Mayor, he decided that the only way he would be able to keep the trash dump out was to form a Coopertown Planning Commission. Doing so the Town would have complete control over its own zoning and zoning enforcement.
“Oak Pointe had already been approved by the County Planning Commission and if the dump came in it would sit right beside the trash dump. Phase 1 of Oak Pointe had already been started. During all this, the unincorporate group managed to get the unincorporate issue on the ballot. Two of the unincorporate advocates were Coopertown Aldermen. They gave Herman HELL. To cut to the chase Herman was able to persuade citizens to provide money to hire Middle Tennessee’s premier Land Use attorney, George Dean and won the battle with the trash dump people.
“He convinced citizens to form a pro-charter group to fight the unincorporate folks and was able to defeat their effort at the ballot box. His Planning Commission was able to revise the county’s Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances and disallow trash dumps within Town boundaries. But probably the most important of all his accomplishments during his tenure was he developed for the Town a budget and forced everyone to live within it.
“Herman was a great guy and good friend. As I said earlier, he was a Master persuader. He sucked me into Town defense activism and persuaded me to run for mayor. With his support, I became Mayor number 4. I miss Herman already.”
Final Arrangements for Davis will be held Thursday, February 15th: At Highland Hills Funeral Home, 2422 Brick Church Pike, Nashville, TN Public Viewing: 5 pm – 7 pm
Friday, February 16th : At Temple Church, 3810 Kings Lane, Nashville, TN Omega Ceremony: 10:30 am – 11:00 am (Omega Psi Phi Fraternity) Visitation: 11 am – 12 pm Funeral: 12 pm.
Friday, February 16th: At Middle Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery, 7931 McCrory Ln, Nashville, TN 37221 Following Funeral Service.