Dr. Marianna White Davis peacefully passed on the morning of September 11, 2021 at the Summerset Assisted Living Facility. Dr. Davis was born to college sweethearts Army Major Rev. Albert McNeil White and Mrs. Laura Bowman White at the Northside Hospital in North Philadelphia on January 8, 1929.
Returning to Columbia after two years of living with Rev. McNeil's parents on Mellon Street in North Philadelphia, Rev. White began pastoring an AME Church in Columbia. Mrs. Laura White returned to teaching and Marianna became a big sister to Heyward Tecumseh Franklin White. He was named after the great Cherokee Indian War Chief Tecumseh, as his grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee. Dr. Davis' grandmother and her sister are featured on the cover of one of Dr. Marianna W. Davis’ 53 published books, CONTRIBUTIONS OF BLACK WOMEN IN AMERICAN HISTORY. It is available at the Library of Congress and at all Historical Black Colleges and Universities.
Dr. Davis attended elementary school at Waverly School in Columbia and the Claflin College Grade School in Orangeburg, South Carolina and lived with her mother, stepfather Hiram 'Duke' Frederick, Jr. (an entrepreneur, contractor, and farmer), stepsister Elizabeth, and her brother Tecumseh. Marianna attended Wilkinson High School where she graduated at the top of her class. The family were ardent members of Trinity United Methodist Church, the historic Black church in Orangeburg that Duke Fredrick and his brother Jimmy Frederick re-built as the bricklayers on top of the original structure.
At Wilkinson, Dr. Davis was President of four organizations, editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, assembly organist, member of two additional organizations, vice-president of the student council, and valedictorian of her class.
In college and graduate school, Dr. Davis received scholarships and grants for her Masters from New York University and her Doctorate from Boston University. She completed her Doctorate degree in two years, the first graduate in the history of Boston University to do so as announced at the graduation by the Academic Dean. Her dissertation entitled 'Transformational Grammar, A system created by Professor Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)', was published in the Netherlands.
Over the years, Dr. Davis taught English and research in the public schools of Columbia, York, St. Matthews, and Spartanburg, South Carolina. At the college level, she taught and lectured at Northeastern Graduate University, Tufts University, University of Michigan, and Harvard University. She also taught English in South Carolina at SC State University, Voorhees College, Claflin College, and at Benedict College. She lectured on English internationally, including in Europe at the New School in London, and the University of Valencia in Spain.
Constantly opening new doors, Dr. Davis was thrilled in 1968 to bring the Concert of Sacred Music featuring the great Duke Ellington to Orangeburg, South Carolina. Duke Ellington performed his first and only concert south of the Mason Dixon line, and featured the joint choirs of South Carolina State College and Claflin College. The proceeds from the sold-out event were used to install new carpet throughout Trinity United Methodist Church.
For 25 years, Dr. Marianna W. Davis organized and produced THE BLACK HISTORY TELECONFERENCE. Featured through Benedict College, South Carolina ETV and the Armed Forces Television Network, the program was broadcast in over 70 countries.
The theme, ``The Struggle Continues”, highlighted accomplished African Americans around the world. The featured participants included astronauts, authors, military officers, pastors, educators, entrepreneurs, and professional sports legends.
Dr. Davis traveled to all 50 states and six continents. An avid football fan, she attended 36 Super Bowls, including the first 25 in a row! Dr. Davis was honored by the Bowman Family Reunion for founding it over 30 years ago. Dr. Davis was affiliated with many organizations including Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, The Moles, The Girlfriends, Alumni Associations of Boston University, New York University, South Carolina State University, and Wilkinson High School Alumni. She served in many professional organizations. However, she was most proud to serve as the first African-American President for the National Teachers of English.
Dr. Davis has been a member of the United Methodist Church (UMC) her entire life. She served and attended Trinity UMC in Orangeburg, South Carolina and Francis Burns UMC, and Wesley UMC, both in Columbia, South Carolina. She also enjoyed attending Cascade UMC and World Changers Church International in Atlanta, Georgia whenever she visited her family there.
Dr. Marianna W. Davis is preceded in death by her late husband, Clifton E. Davis; her siblings, Agnes Elizabeth Butler, Brother-in-Law, Bill Butler, and brother, Heyward Tecumseh White.
Dr. Davis is survived by her son, Kenneth Renay Davis, Sr. (Debra), grandson, Kenneth Reginald Davis, II (Candis); granddaughter, Lauren Renay Davis; cousins, Louella Bowman Hunter, Douglas Bolton, Beatrice Hunter, Harry Palmer, the Bowman Family Members, Frederick Family Members, White Family Members, the Butler Family Members, David Swinton Family Members, and Davis Family Members; and extended family members, Mildred Knightner, Monica Knightner (Marianna’s God-daughter), James and Florence Hill, Dr. Doris Ginn, Willie Lyles and Family, Kevin and Kerry Abel, The Hunter Family (Detroit), Congressman James Clyburn and Family, and many, many others.
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