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Joe Davis, First African-American White Plains Firefighter, Dies At 96

Joseph "Joe" Davis, 96
Joseph "Joe" Davis, 96 Photo Credit: Lee's Funeral Home
Joseph "Joe" Davis, 96
Joseph "Joe" Davis, 96 Photo Credit: Lee's Funeral Home

Joseph "Joe" Davis, 96, a longtime White Plains resident and the first African-American fireman in the City of White Plains died on Sunday, Nov. 5.

Born in Sheldon, S.C., on Aug. 30, 1921, Davis was the eldest of five siblings. The family moved to White Plains when he was 8-years-old where he attended school in the White Plains school district, graduating from White Plains High School.

Shortly after graduation, he entered the Army Air Corp, serving in the 477th Bomber Group, spending time as a support group for the Tuskegee Airmen. He held an exemplary military record and was honorably discharged.

After returning home Joe began his firefighting career in April 1949 and became the first African-American firefighter in White Plains. Upon leaving the White Plains Fire Department, he became a Corrections Officer at the Westchester County Penitentiary until he retired in 1984.

Davis married his childhood sweetheart, Elizabeth (Alexander) Davis and they had one daughter, and he became a stepfather to another daughter when she was two years old. The couple also acted as foster parents, opening their home to two other children.

Among his accomplishments, Davis was very proud to be a member of the Masons, being elected twice as Worshipful Master at Hiram Lodge F&AM #4 In New York City. He was also elected an honorary member of The Ashanti Club of Connecticut. He became a Boy Scout troop leader when his grandson William joined the scouts in Valhalla. He enjoyed watching sports and listening to jazz, but playing golf was his passion.

White Plains Fire Chief Richard Lyman said Davis worked as a fireman until 1957, making $2,1050 a year and was known as a "pleasant man who was great to work with."

His first assignment was a driver hose man handling special inspections, the chief said.

"He had a fine way of living," Lyman said. "He was part of the firefighter's family."

Davis was also known for being a kind and giving man with a positive attitude toward life. He served his community by delivering food, papers and other things for the elderly and infirm. He was always readily available to assist in any way he could. He loved being with family and friends and was always proud of their successes and accomplishments. Each and every one of them was near and dear to his heart.

Davis is predeceased by his parents, siblings, and four grandchildren.

He is survived by daughters Donna Lewis (Arthur), Carol Clark Spears, and son Evans Thompson; 2 grandchildren: Tracy Spears and Michelle Brown Taylor; 12 great grandchildren, 15 great great grandchildren, and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, other relatives, and friends.

White Plains Public Safety posted on its Facebook page: "Our deepest sympathies go out to the Davis family. May the care and love of those around you provide comfort and peace to get you through the days ahead. RIP Joe Davis."

A wake will be held from 10 to 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 10, immediately followed by a funeral at 11 a.m., all at the Mt. Hope AME Zion Church, 65 Lake St., White Plains. Burial will be at the Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla.

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