H. Willard Davis

In Memory of

Harry Willard Davis

November 7, 1915 - April 26, 2017

Columbia – Dr. H. Willard Davis passed peacefully at age 101 on April 26, 2017. His life was one of great love, accomplishment, and fulfillment.

Dr. Davis served the South Carolina Section in a number of capacities.  He served as secretary-treasurer from 1949-1951. From 1952-1954 he rotated through the positions of chair-elect, chair, and past chair.  He served as as councilor for the South Carolina Section from 1957-1962 and as alternate councilor from 1962-1968. 

He survived Mary, his loving wife of 65 years. He was born of the late Eugene M. Davis and Mary Fennell Davis on November 7, 1915 in Pelzer, SC.

After graduating Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from USC in 1937 and receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati in 1941, he began his 36 year career at USC as a professor of chemistry. He became Chair of the USC Chemistry Department and was a nationally distinguished scientist serving as a Fellow at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Chairman of the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies, and President of Oak Ridge Associated Universities. He was an observer of the 1942 atomic bomb test in Nevada. He was President of the South Carolina Academy of Science, Director of the USC Institute of Science and Technology, and lectured on Russian Science.

From 1960 to 1966, he served as Dean of the USC College of Arts and Sciences. For the next decade he was instrumental in the development of USC academic programs serving as Vice-President of Academic Affairs, Vice-President of Research and Graduate Studies, and Vice-Provost for Regional Campuses.

In 1977, he retired from USC with the honor of Distinguished Professor Emeritus. USC established the Willard Davis Lecture Series in Chemistry. In 2003, USC awarded him an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science.

Apart from his career as a professor, Willard was an avid supporter of Carolina athletics. From 1946 to 1959 he traveled with the USC football team and filmed the “motion pictures” of the football games, including the Gamecocks 1946 appearance in the first ever Gator Bowl.

Upon his retirement from academia, Willard commenced an equally distinguished career in sailing serving as a Commodore of the Columbia Sailing Club and a Commodore of the South Atlantic Yacht Racing Union. Both of these sailing organizations continue to make annual awards in his name in recognition of his exceptional contributions to the sport of sailing. He was nationally and internationally recognized for his consummate skills in the administration and judging of sailing regattas. He became a Judge, then the Senior Area Judge, for the United States Yacht Racing Union. He retired from sailing in 1990 with the honor of International Judge Emeritus of the American Sailing Association.

His many lifetime activities and awards include his memberships in Washington Street Methodist Church, the Cosmos Club, the Columbia Rotary Club, and his receipt of South Carolina’s highest award, the Order of the Palmetto.

He is survived by his daughter, Anne Davis Waldrop and Bob Waldrop; son, Harry W. Davis, Jr. and Ginger Phillips; son, James H. Davis and Salley Davis; grandchildren, Robert Waldrop, Jr., Shannon Kaul, Harry W. “Tripp” Davis, III, and Mary Peyton Wall; and eleven great-grandchildren. Pa was a man of great character, dignity, wisdom, kindness, and humor and will be deeply missed by his family and friends.

Members of the Columbia Sailing Club and the USC Department of Chemistry will serve as honorary pallbearers. The family expresses its heartfelt gratitude to Dr. Stan McCloy and the staff of All Seasons Health Hospice; to Kim Anderson, R.N. and the exceptional, compassionate staff of Laurel Crest Retirement Center; and to Betty Sutton, Sarah Galloway, and Taneda McKenzie. Memorials may be made to the H. Willard Davis Lecture Series in Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, USC, Columbia, SC 29208, and to the Laurel Crest Foundation, 100 Joseph Walker Drive, West Columbia, SC 29169.

The service will be at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 30 at Dunbar Funeral Home, Devine Street Chapel. Visitation will be from 3:00 to 5:00 on Saturday, April 29, 2017 at the funeral home.