Archie Davis, Rebooter
By Lee Callaway
“I’m going back to school so I can catch up on my reading. I haven’t been able to put in much time on it, and I’ve gotten rusty. I think studying under folks who are younger than I am, who’ve been doing the research, who are up to date on the latest papers, will sharpen me up.”
These words were spoken to me in 1973 by a businessman nearing retirement.
They were the answer to my question, “Mr. Davis, what are you going to do when you retire?”
Mr. Davis was the late Archie K. Davis. His “reading” was the study of the Civil War. The reason he hadn’t been able to spend much time on it was that he was busy being chairman of the board of Wachovia Bank and Trust Company, N.A., of Winston-Salem, N.C., then the largest bank in the Southeastern U.S.
He was also a former president of the American Bankers Association, a former president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a veteran of numerous Presidential commissions, a former North Carolina legislator, a popular and much demanded public speaker, and a devoted husband and father.
He was a man whose accomplishments, by any standards, had earned him the right to rest on his laurels and enjoy a retirement of leisure. But he was going back to school!
Why? Because Archie Davis was passionate about the study of the battles of the Civil War, in particular the history of the North Carolina regiment.
In fact, his personal research proved that the North Carolina regiment had gone further up the hill at Gettysburg in Pickett’s famous charge than the regiment from any other state.
Since Gettysburg was the northernmost penetration of the Confederate forces, this meant that the North Carolina boys had gone farther north in the war than any other Confederate soldiers.
A proud North Carolinian, Davis persuaded the curator of the Gettysburg National Battlefield Monument to change the markers that had erroneously credited another state with the northernmost advance, and give proper recognition to the soldiers from Davis’ home state, even in a losing cause.
My first rebooter
Davis did indeed go back to Chapel Hill, home of the University of North Carolina, his alma mater, after retirement to catch up on his reading.
And catch up he did. After retiring from Wachovia in 1974, Davis re-entered Carolina to earn a master’s degree in history. In 1981 he completed his doctoral dissertation, which led to his book “Boy Colonel of the Confederacy: The Life and Times of Henry King Burgwyn Jr.,” published by UNC Press in 1985 and now in its fifth printing.
Archie Davis was the first real rebooter I ever knew. He has been my role model since that day he told me of his “retirement” plans. The fact that a man as successful as he would so willingly go back to school and put himself at the foot of the class, so to speak, was a powerful inspiration for me.