Archie Davis

Back to the foot of the class

“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 in 1973 by a businessman nearing retirement. They were the answer to a question, “Mr. Davis, what are you going to do when you retire?”

Archie Davis

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.

Lifelong learner

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!

My first rebooter

Davis did catch up on his reading. After retiring from Wachovia in 1974, he re-entered the University of North Carolina to earn a master’s degree in history. In 1981 he completed his doctoral dissertation.

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. He was a lifelong learner, an achievement I am still trying to accomplish.

— Lee Callaway