Remembering Willie Davis, NFL Hall of Famer, Black Radio Pioneer, Black Business leader

Written by on April 15, 2020

This has been a time of sadness as the entire globe is on quarantine. And so many people are dying. Not only from COVID-19 but from natural causes, old age, and long illnesses. Lately so many people are leaving us…. This morning we heard the news that Mr. Willie Davis passed away after a long illness. He was 85. Some will not know Mr. Davis. But he was a Hall of Fame NFL Player for the Green Bay Packers, even playing in the very first Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs. When I was a kid, we collected and traded athlete’s cards. I had Willie Davis, Number 87. As a child of the civil rights movement, there was a cadre of pro athletes who consistently spoke up about our civil rights. Mr. Davis was one of them.

After football, Mr. Davis became one of the nation’s prominent businesspersons, owning one of the largest beer distributorships in the nation. Additionally, he obtained an FCC Class A license, one of the first blacks in the nation to do so. Thus he formed All Pro Broadcasting, one of the most successful media companies owned by a black person. The company owned broadcast properties in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Milwaukee. The Flagship station was the historic and legendary 103.9 KACE in Los Angeles. In my long career as a broadcast executive, I never worked at KACE. But I was a listener. And I have a story or two….

I am a student of Black radio history and I deeply admired Mr. Willie Davis. Some will know that the current KJLH studio in Inglewood is formerly the KACE studio. when I was first hired at KJLH, Mr. Davis, Duane, Belinda and Ms. Edna still maintained their offices in the back. When I started, I had never met Mr Davis but I knew his story. I was really awestruck that I was in the same building as him. I mean this was not only a hall of famer and black business icon, he was also one of the financial supporters of one of the most iconic music festivals in our culture, 1972’s Wattstax in the LA Coliseum.

I did a promotion with the documentary commemorating the 30th anniversary of the fest… one of the movie posters had Jesse Jackson and Mr. Davis in it. I remember me and Sonny Williams marveling at the historic significance of the poster so he framed it and hung it in the hall, and Mr. Davis shared a few stories and even signed the poster. I was so thrilled. This was real black history. My condolences to family of Willie Davis. My condolences to all who did this Black radio thing through the framework of All Pro Broadcasting in particular KACE…….

Here’s the statement from the family:

It is with sadness that we announce that our family patriarch, Willie D. Davis passed away in his sleep this morning after an extended illness. He was probably best known as the premier Hall of Fame defensive end and team captain for the dominating Lombardi era Green Bay Packers of the 1960s, but he was much more. He was a trailblazer in the world of business, as adept in the boardroom of the numerous Fortune 500 corporations on who’s boards of directors he served as he was on the gridiron. His later passion was radio broadcasting, becoming one of the first Black Americans to own a Class A radio broadcasting license. A graduate of Grambling University, he was a proud brother of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He also earned an MBA from the University of Chicago as well as numerous honorary degrees. He would undoubtedly agree that his greatest achievement was his family. He was adored by his wife, Carol, his children Duane (Inge) and Lori, grandchildren David, Wyatt, Harley and Hayden as well as his brothers and sisters and a host of family and friends. Funeral services will be private, but a future, public celebration of his incredible life is planned. The family is requesting privacy at this time.

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