BY RHONDA BELLAMY
Family and friends are mourning the loss of community activist Kenneth Davis, who died Thursday, November 29, 2018, after an extended illness. He was 73.
Upon returning to Wilmington in 1989 to care for his ailing mother, the Vietnam veteran and former federal undercover narcotics agent became active in several local organizations, including the 1898 Centennial Foundation.
“He was one of the historians who contributed to the 1898 research,” said Bertha Todd, the foundation’s co-chair. “He was always going to the public library, searching through newspapers, names and other pertinent information.”
In 2000 Davis was appointed to the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission, established by the General Assembly to develop a historical record of the event and to assess the economic impact on African Americans locally and across the region and state. Davis also initiated the reprint of Dr. Leon Prather’s historical account of 1898, We Have Taken a City, and wrote the foreword.
“One thing about Kenny is he wouldn’t back down from a debate,” said Frankie Roberts, executive director of LINC, or Leading Into New Communities, where Davis served as a resident manager and mentor to those returning from prison.
Despite being a self-described “rabble-rouser”, Davis had a calm demeanor, said Deborah Maxwell, president of the New Hanover County chapter of the NAACP.
“He was always insightful, always supportive, and always loved to educate you on things in the community,” Maxwell said.
Davis’s love of local history led him to establish the Carolina Heritage Tourism Network, tours of historically significant places in Wilmington’s African-American community.
“I called him a grassroots community activist,” said Herbert Harris, a close family friend. “Kenneth didn’t get a car until the last five or six years. He walked everywhere and it gave him a sense of real community to stop and talk to so many people along the way.”
Davis was formerly employed by Corning and Capitol Ford of Wilmington.
Family visitation will be Friday, December 7, 2018 from 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. at New Beginning Christian Church, 3120 Alex Trask Drive in Castle Hayne, NC. The funeral service will begin at 10:00 a.m., followed by interment at Eastern Carolina Cemetery in Goldsboro, NC.