Monday, August 22, 2016


Buddy Davis

The news report was interesting to me:  we are seeing the implosion of American journalism.

Just now?  I have been watching what has passed for journalism for years and my thoughts always return to the things I learned at the University of Florida in the classroom of the man who is pictured here.  His name is Horance G. Davis, better known far and wide as "Buddy."  So many times I have read or heard something from someone purporting to be a journalist and thought "You would never make it in Mr. Davis's class!"

Buddy Davis taught journalism in the 1960s.  He not only taught it, he did it.  His editorials in the Gainesville Sun in the early, volatile days of the civil rights movement earned him a Pulitzer Prize.  It is a blessing to my life that I had those days in his classroom.  Just to be clear, I was not Mr. Davis's star pupil.  Most of the time I was the one in the back of the classroom, hoping not to be noticed.  Or the one who was late standing outside the locked classroom door hoping to be let in.  My education could definitely be termed more agony than ecstasy.  I used what I learned to the benefit of family businesses, not in the pursuit of a stellar journalism career.

What I have always carried with me, however, is the example of those who taught me, especially Mr. Davis.  The sign on his office wall spoke volumes:  GET IT FIRST, BUT FIRST GET IT RIGHT!

What is missing in American journalism today?  In many cases...not all, but far too what Mr. Davis taught every day in every class without speaking a word about it.  Integrity.  Not just in the professional world, but in life.  He was a good Christian man, a lay leader in his church.  It showed in his teaching.  I wrote about his class in my book, Faith Breezes: Glimpsing God's Glory in Everyday Life.  I share it with you here. 


You must try your hardest to get in through the narrow door, for
many, I assure you, will try to do so and will not succeed.  For once the
master of the house has got up and shut the door, you will find
yourselves standing outside and knocking at the door crying 'Lord,
please open the door for us.'
-Luke 13:24-25 MSG

He was one of those college professors who was legendary.  Memorable.  The kind you talk about with love and respect for the rest of your life.

His name was Buddy Davis.  Among other things, he taught reporting, editorial writing and photojournalism.  It was my privilege to suffer in his journalism classes at the University of Florida in the early 1960s.

Every student in the journalism degree track from those days remembers Mr. Davis's famous "train wreck" class.  The students were in the classroom, which was set up like a newsroom.  Mr. Davis was in his office.  Acting as the reporter at the scene, he would randomly call in to the waiting student reporters.  In a breathless voice, over a really bad phone connection, he would offer "reports," spouting out the facts and then hanging up abruptly as the desperate reporter-in-training cried "What? Wait!!"  It was then up to the student to interpret the reports and craft a story for the next edition of the imaginary newspaper.

At the end of the class, Mr. Davis would appear in the "newsroom," disheveled, dirty and - ostensibly - exhausted.

"We did it!" he would pant.  "We covered the story and got the paper out!"  His pleasure was infectious.  No matter how panicked we had been mere moments before, everyone in that classroom felt a sense of accomplishment.

Mr. Davis loved that kind of teaching.  And he was so good at it.  In later years, his editorials in The Gainesville Sun earned him a Pulitzer Prize.  I sent a card of congratulations and received a typical reply - the same sentiment, I'm sure, that was sent to all his students.  "Yes, winning the Pulitzer was a highlight of my career," he wrote, "second only to your graduation from the university."

So I have a lot of wonderful memories about Mr. Davis.  But the thing I remember best wasn't those moments in class or those great editorials.

It was how he locked the classroom door.

When the bell rang for class to begin, Mr. Davis slammed the door and locked it.  You were supposed to be in your seat, ready to go, when the bell rang.  Running down the hall wasn't good enough.

The bell rang.  Mr. Davis locked the door.  And then he stood on the classroom side of it and giggled.  No, it was more of a cackle.  The more you knocked, the longer you would wait to get in...if, indeed, he let you in at all.  I'm sure that in his personal life, he was an understanding fellow.  But as a teacher, he had a point to make.  I had this experience a couple of times, and I can tell you that it was miserable and embarrassing and something you didn't want to repeat.

Sooner or later, you figured out what to do to avoid it.  You realized the importance of advance preparation.  If your unfortunate class schedule required you to hoof it from the opposite side of campus in 15 minutes, you figured out the fastest route and didn't tarry.  And the next time you had to sign up for one of his classes, you made it your business to build in some extra time beforehand.

Revelation 3:20 says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."

Even though my experience with Mr. Davis was decades ago now, every time I hear a Scripture reference like that one, to knocking on the door, I picture myself before Mr. Davis's classroom door, begging for entrance.

Like that door, Heaven's door requires advance preparation.  Happily, it doesn't matter if we're later than we should be.  To go through Heaven's door, we just need to be on a first name basis with the Doorkeeper.  He wants to let us in.  After all, he knocked on the door of our heart first.

And this time, it's up to us to open it.

It's a profound comfort to know that when I knock on Heaven's door, I won't hear somebody cackling on the other side!

Update note on August 22, 2016.  I have to ask you today...have you answered Jesus's knock on your heart's door?  If not, I pray you will not let another moment go by without inviting Him into your life.  Blessings to you, friend.