John Paul Davis, 64, a life-long Blount County educator who started his career as a school janitor and finished as school board chair, has died at Blount Memorial Hospital from complications from cancer.
“He died this afternoon around 4 p.m. from complications from cancer,” said Blount County Commissioner Holden Lail on Monday.
Lail and Davis were both retired teachers who met 41 years ago when Davis was starting at Rush Strong Elementary School, and Lail was beginning at Bungalow Elementary. “ We were both very young educators. As we began our careers, we were on parallel paths,” Lail said. “We both began as elementary principals at very small schools and worked our way through the process and the educational world. We were both very active in the teacher organization early in our career.”
Lail was close to Davis and said this comes as an emotional blow. “I can’t even add it up right now," Lail said. “His force of personality and influence will be felt for a long time. That is as simple as it is. The next few days will be tough for family and friends."
Blount County Schools board member Chris Cantrell said Davis’ impact on the Blount County education community was significant. “From his days as a teacher to being a principal to being a superintendent to being a board member, John has touched so many lives,” he said. “I can remember back when I first got on the board and served with John. I looked to him and took a lot of things he said at the meetings to heart.”
Cantrell said Davis had a great knowledge of education partly because Davis did almost every job in the school system.
Blount County Commissioner Jerome Moon said Davis enjoyed seeing via the internet a proclamation honoring him during the Aug. 18 Blount County Commission meeting.
“He was really taken back Thursday. His family had set up a computer where he could see it being presented. Everybody is happy that all happened, and he knew about,” Moon said. "The cancer took him down so quickly."
Lail said Davis was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in April. He went from Blount County to Houston where he was being treated at MD Anderson Medical Center. Recently doctors there released him to come home.
“He personified education in Blount County. He always put the student first, whether it was a first grader or a graduating senior. He always tried to do what was in the best interest of the student,” Moon said. “He and I have had our differences over the years, but I always admired him. He would go to bat for the county students. He was a true advocate for the county student.”
Blount County Commissioner Gary Farmer said Davis’ impact on the school system has been far-reaching from county-line to county-line. “He has been the epitome of the education system in Blount County over the past 30 years,” Farmer said. “When you think of Blount County School System, there is one name synonymous with it, and that has been John Davis.”
Cantrell remembered a few years ago when Davis took Cantrell's son fishing. "I told John my son wanted to go fishing for his birthday. John invited us up to his farm and took my son and my daughters up to his pond,” Cantrell said. “He knew my son wanted to go fishing, and he made sure that happened. John was great with kids. He loved kids. So many times I heard him say, ‘We need to do what is right for the children.' A lot of people say that, but I know John Davis meant it every time he said it.”
Information about services will be announced later.