Lee Morgan Davis
Copyright * All rights reserved
J.C. (Jim) Tumblin, OD, DOS
3604 Kesterwood Drive, East
Knoxville, Tennessee 37918-2557
(Evelyn Goddard Kirby Collection)
Lee Morgan Davis
Lee Morgan Davis was born on September 11, 1903, and spent his early years at the home of his grandfather, Dr. Gideon H. Morgan, who lived in Ridgeview, the mansion overlooking Fountain City Lake now occupied by the Gentry-Griffey Funeral Chapel. Lee’s mother, Ludema V. (Morgan) Davis was widowed when he was an infant and lived with her parents. His father was William Arthur Davis, Spanish-American War veteran who taught military science in Rogersville and in Arkansas.
As a boy, Lee carried a newspaper route and made friends with his customers and many others in the small village as Fountain City was at the time. He also made friends with his favorite animals, the dogs and the horses in the community. Lee also made prolonged visits to relatives in Hawkins County where his grandfather had practiced medicine for several years.
After attending elementary school at Fountain City Grammar school, Lee attended Central High School and graduated there in 1922. His imaginative English themes attracted the attention of Hassie K. Gresham, the principal, and she suggested he try writing as a career. He attended the University of Tennessee for a year and then enrolled at Washington University, Washington, D.C. where he roomed with Michael McDermott, who later became press secretary for the U.S. State Department. He left college a year before he would have received his degree.
A young Lee Davis applied for a job as a reporter for the fledgling Knoxville News (later to be combined with the Knoxville Sentinel). He interviewed with Edward J. Meeman, the paper’s founding editor. Mr. Meeman later wrote to a friend, "I have added a younger man, Lee Morgan Davis, just out of college. He is the type you would think of as old-fashioned. He would step into a Civil War picture very well. He is an extremely high-minded young man or I am much mistaken."
Davis’ forte was feature stories of the human-interest type, but he often covered the Chamber of Commerce meetings in his early years. He had a particular affinity for the Old Market House and often wrote of the farmers and merchants who sold there. By the end of his career, he may have written more reports of the demise of prominent area citizens than any other reporter, as this was usually his assignment. The articles were so readable that they were of interest even to those who had not known the deceased. To the time of his death in 1968 he had the longest continuous work record of any News-Sentinel editorial employee--almost 44 years.
He also wrote about the Tennessee Valley Fair (his description of opening day was almost like being there), the tobacco market, agriculture in general and labor-management relations. He saw and reported on the first wild boar hunt in Tellico Plains and, during the Robert R. Neyland era as Head Coach of the University of Tennessee football team, he began a column called Grandstand Quarterback, which appeared on Sundays after the games.
For some 16 years Lee covered all the horse shows is in the area for the Sentinel. He often attended in person but also had contacts with show owners and followers who would call the results to him. He was credited with popularizing horse shows through the years. For years he was a regular afternoon horseback rider and quit only when he received a knee injury in an accident.
On September 23, 1934, Lee Morgan Davis and Blanche Grace (1908-1976) were married. They met when she came to the classified advertisement department of the paper and she later became Women’s Department editor. Blanche Davis retired because of her health in 1961.
After a yearlong battle with throat cancer, he died at St. Mary’s Hospital on June 3, 1968. He was a charter member of the Knoxville Newspaper Guild and served on the executive committee several times and as vice-president. He was a member of the Church of the Sacred Heart. He is buried in Highland Memorial Cemetery.
Lee Davis’ high school principal, Hassie K. Gresham, had suggested that he try a career as a writer. The skill he had exhibited even during those early years was evident throughout a long career. Lee Morgan Davis made a difference throughout East Tennessee by providing inspired prose in his frequent articles and feature stories.
d-authrs.doc (8/19/02, 2/16/06)