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Great Black Kentuckians

William E. "Bunny" Davis

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William E. "Bunny" Davis (1917 - 2001) The grandson of former North Carolina slaves, William “Bunny” Davis was born June 9, 1917, in Perryville, Ky., which is in Boyle County. He was the well-known and beloved chief doorkeeper of the Kentucky House of Representatives for 15 years. Throughout the course of his life, he broke many racial barriers and achieved great success in sports, community, career and government. Davis played football, baseball, basketball and ran relay at Bate High School in Danville, Ky. He was an all-state forward in basketball and selected to play on the All American Negro High School basketball team of 1936. It is thought that Davis was the first African American basketball player to be named All-American. He anchored a championship high school relay team where he was nicknamed "Bunny Rabbit" because of his great speed and ducking and dodging ability. He was recognized as one of the fastest track men in the state, with a consistent 9.7 seconds in the 100 yard dash, and in his senior year, he was clocked at 9.6 seconds. He played semi-pro baseball prior to integration. In 1947, he joined the Lexington Hustlers, the first integrated baseball team in the South. As a semi-professional baseball player in the 1940s, he played against baseball legends and Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Satchel Paige and Roy Campanella, Cool Papa Bell and Josh Gibson. Davis became the first African American to umpire baseball games in the Southeastern Conference and the Kentucky State High School Tournament. He was one of the first blacks to call integrated basketball in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association in Central Kentucky where he earned the rank of certified official, and, in 1991, he was inducted into the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Sports Hall of Fame. He was a successful businessman who was held in high esteem by the Danville and Boyle County communities where he was city commissioner for 13 years and served as mayor pro tem. He was highly regarded for his effective advocacy on behalf of Danville and Boyle County senior citizens, being instrumental in obtaining funding for their 25-passenger bus, and he could always be relied upon for support during fund-raising efforts. He was the first black selected to serve on Ephraim McDowell's Board of Directors, on Danville's United Way Board of Directors, on Danville's Selective Service Board, on Danville's Policeman's and Fireman's Merit Board, and on Danville's Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. To show their appreciation for his lifetime of stewardship rendered to his community, the City of Danville named its recreation building, "The William E. 'Bunny' Davis Recreation Complex," in his honor. He is widely remembered for his faithful service as the doorkeeper for the Kentucky House of Representatives, an office he held for 28 years. For 15 of those years, he served as the chief doorkeeper and was responsible for a staff of 15. His notable role was to ceremoniously present to the house speaker and members, important guests and visitors who were then escorted by staff onto the House floor. He died October 12, 2001.

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