George Donnell “Don” Davidson, Jr., businessman, philanthropist and devoted father and grandfather, died at home on Sunday, Oct. 18th, surrounded by family. He was 96.
Don was predeceased by his wife of 64 years, Anne Stapleton Davidson, who died in 2005. Known to his three grandsons as “Buddy Don,” or “B.D.,” for short, he never missed a chance to remind each of the family motto: “Do right.” He famously greeted friends and family alike with an energetic “Happy Day!”
Don is survived by his three children: Sherry Anne Davidson of Asheville, NC, Sally Davidson Mathews of New York City and George D. Davidson, III of Athens, GA. Other family includes: George’s wife, Jeanne Ann Davidson of Athens; grandchildren Patrick O’Connor and his wife, Katie, of Bethesda, MD, Sean Davidson Mathews and his wife, Nell, of New York City, and Samuel M. Davidson of Oakland, CA; two great-grandsons, Sam and Ryan O’Connor, of Bethesda; his sister, Welshie Davidson Potts and her husband, Farrel, of Fearrington, NC; long-time family friend, Karen Futchel, as well as numerous nieces and nephews. Don’s brother, Shannon W. Davidson of Charlotte, NC, predeceased him.
Don was born May 20, 1919, in Monroe, NC, the oldest of three children to Bernice Shannon and Don Davidson, Sr. He grew up in Wadesboro, NC where his father traded in land and timber and helped tenant farmers buy their land. Don drew on his dad’s lessons throughout his life, among them his father’s insistence of treating everyone fairly, regardless of the person’s race or social status.
At Wadesboro High School, Don served as editor and business manager of the student newspaper and created the school’s first yearbook. Don arrived at Davidson College at the height of the Great Depression, short of money, and quickly found a job washing dishes at a boarding house.
At Davidson, he managed the humor magazine, accompanied the Glee Club on piano and played organ in the chapel. He took pride in knowing most of his fellow students by name and served as class secretary after graduation, producing a comprehensive yearbook for their 50th reunion.
He served as a trustee of Davidson for 12 years and did a stint on the executive committee, saying, “I could never repay Davidson for what it meant to me.” As a show of gratitude, Don and Anne endowed the Stapleton-Davidson Internship Program at the college. After graduation, Don moved to Charlotte to work as a salesman for the Herald Press. He married Anne in December 1941.
After the outbreak of WWII, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a Buck Private. He participated in the first two invasions of the Central Pacific and handled administrative and logistical challenges to the thousands of civil servants who arrived at Hickam Field in Honolulu, HI. He earned two battle stars and eventually earned the rank of Captain.
Don returned to Charlotte after the war and was involved in the beginnings of Package Products, organizing a sales force across the Southeast and Texas. That experience led to an agreement with a Louisiana bakery to create another new company, Jack’s Cookies.
In 1968, he took the helm of Washburn Printing Co., where he was proud that every employee owned stock in the company. “Nobody worked for me,” he said. “We all worked together.” In 1984, he merged Washburn with William Byrd Press of Richmond, VA, to form Cadmus, serving as president until his retirement in 1986.
He served as chairman of the Greater Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and president of the Charlotte Rotary Club. He also served as president of the Charlotte chapter of the United Way in 1973. Don was a founding member of Covenant Presbyterian Church and was active in its leadership for most of his life. He joined its predecessor church, Second Presbyterian, in 1935.
In retirement, Don and Anne lived for a time in Black Mountain, NC, where they became active supporters of Warren Wilson College, a school with ties to the Asheville Farm School, where his father was educated in the early years of the 20th Century. Don and Anne established the G.D. Davidson Vocation Discovery Experience, a permanent endowment to honor his father.
A restless man, Don was calmed by his religious faith. An avid reader of theology, he was always open to new and deeper insights, aware that no one could ever fully grasp the questions that mattered most.
A memorial service will be held in Don’s honor at 11AM Saturday, October 24 at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 1000 East Morehead Street.
There are no words to describe the gratitude his family feels toward the countless friends, extended family and caregivers from Hospice and Bayada Home Health Care for their support, concern and prayers. To avoid the risk of oversight, they are unnamed, but all should know how truly they have touched and sustained us.
In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made in Don’s name to Hospice & Palliative Care, Charlotte Region, 1420 East 7th St., Charlotte, NC 28204 or to the Stapleton-Davidson Internship Program, Davidson College, Box 7177, Davidson, NC 28035.
Online condolences may be addressed to www.carolinafuneral.com. Carolina Funeral Service & Cremation Center is entrusted with the arrangements.