As we look back to life in Orangeburg County 50 years ago in 1970, you will find a very different environment than what we see today.
On Jan. 11, 1970, T&D Sports Editor James Beck wrote: “Heckle Masters Studies, Too -- Many parents regard athletics as a hindrance to education. But Bill Heckle is proof that athletics do not interfere with a youth’s academic standing in all cases.
“The Orangeburg High School athlete, who only Wednesday night was the recipient of the Bill Davis Award during the Orangeburg Indian Club Banquet, is one of Orangeburg High School’s more academic minded students as well as one of its better athletes. The Bill Davis Award is given annually to the senior who best exemplifies the traits of leadership and excellence in academics and athletics.
“Heckle’s selection as Bill Davis recipient came as a complete surprise to the 150-pound football star. Receiving the award and adding his name to a list of other outstanding Orangeburg athletes of the past who have received the award, Heckle was a bit choked up.
“He managed to say a few words, despite showing his emotions and then received a standing ovation from the large gathering.
“Not falling into the line of just being another athlete, Heckle is a special kind of athlete. He’s the kind of athlete every coach wants.
“And this special attitude doesn’t vanish in the classroom. He still gives it everything he has. The fact that Heckle is among the top 10 percent of his class and scored 1228 on the college board examination is proof enough that he is a superb student. Heckle plans to attend the University of South Carolina next fall.
Fifty years ago, as the citizens of Orangeburg witnessed the birth of the new decade, the weather in January gave the citizens of the county a…
“Football is over for Heckle, but in a few weeks, he’ll be back on the athletic fields again. He doesn’t play basketball, but he does play baseball. So, after mid-term exams, Heckle will begin training for the baseball season.
“Heckle maintains that athletics haven’t hampered his school work, but helped it. ‘I don’t know how, but I think athletics have helped my school work.
“’When I just lay around, it’s hard for me to study, but when I come in from football practice, I can’t put it off because I know I have to study,’ he said.
“Academics and athletics are completely different. But when blended together, they form the Billy Heckles — the All-American boys of every day.”
The Bill Davis Award was named in honor of William P. “Bill” Davis, who was a highly respected citizen in Orangeburg County in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Davis was born in Columbia, Alabama, and was the son of the late William Preston Davis and Cornelia Raysor Davis. He lived most of his life in Orangeburg and graduated from Orangeburg High and later attended The Citadel.
Bill, as he was known, was a member of the firm of Crum Brothers and Davis who operated the local Buick and Pontiac automobile dealership. He became highly active and treasured in the civic and social affairs of the county.
On May 21, 1953, at the age of 52, Davis died unexpectedly at his residence.
On Jan. 10, 1954, The T&D reported: “Davis Memorial Trophy Presented to School -- Mr. Edward Mirmow, member of the Indian Club, has presented to Thackston High School the Bill Davis Memorial Trophy. This trophy was presented to the school as a permanent possession in commemoration of the memory of Mr. William P. Davis who, prior to his death, was one of the most beloved men — of the community.
“The Bill Davis Trophy Award originated after the sudden death of Mr. Davis. Two of his very close friends, Mr. Mirmow and Mr. Pierce Broadfield, a recent resident of Orangeburg, felt that the presentation of this trophy was the least that they could do to commemorate such a dear friend.
“Principal Eugene Smith, in response to the presentation, called special attention to the gold statues which appear on the trophy. He pointed out that the gold represented both Mr. Davis, as a golden character, and the golden quality of the Indian Club -- a worthiest organization, which has for many years served the interest of Orangeburg High athletics.
“’May we as a student body keep the golden ideals, remember the golden rule, and live golden lives.’”
At the athletic banquet of Orangeburg High School in 1954, the first recipient to receive the Bill Davis Memorial Trophy was announced.
The T&D reported on Jan. 22, 1954: “Indian Club Banquet Honors Local Athletes -- One of the highlights of the evening was the presentation of the Bill Davis Memorial Trophy to Miss Janice Suber, a senior at Orangeburg High School. It was the initial awarding of the trophy which will be given annually to the local high school student who displays the greatest athletic ability, scholastic achievement and sportsmanship.
“Eddie Mirmow, first president of the Indian Club, in presenting the award to Miss Suber, pointed out that she was an excellent choice for the award, he enumerating the honors which her fellow students and her teachers had bestowed upon her.”
When the schools in Orangeburg became fully integrated in the 1971-72 school year, Orangeburg High School and Wilkinson High School combined together and was named Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School. During this merger, the Bill Davis Award continued to be recognized at the annual athletic banquet.
Bobby Bethea was the last student at Orangeburg High to get the award. Mike O’Cain became the first recipient of the prestigious Bill Davis Award at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School.
In 1988, student-athlete Jerrelle Williams became the last known recipient of the Bill Davis Award. It is not known why that longtime recognition was stopped. The annual remembrance of William P. “Bill” Davis and his contributions to Orangeburg lasted from 1954 to 1988, a total of 34 years.
Although the Bill Davis Award is no longer presented to students, the marks of the contributions and the worth left by Davis in the community will remain entrenched in the fabric of the history of Orangeburg County.
Richard Reid is president of the Orangeburg Historical and Genealogical Society. His mission is researching Orangeburg history, with a particular emphasis on the role of African Americans in that history.
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