Onion Davis death a huge loss for community, football world

Published 8:13 am Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Bainbridge football legend remembered for his service in education on and off the field died Monday at the age of 87.

Spencer “Onion” Davis was in the Decatur County Sports Hall of Fame as of 2011 and is remembered as a coach and junior high administrator. Friends say he loved to hunt was most definitely, “a character.”

Davis played high school football in Panama City Beach, Fla. From 1939 until 1942. He abruptly left school for WWII where he was stationed in the Philippines at 17-years-old. He served more than a year in the Coast Guard.

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Once back in the U.S. at Troy State College he played football from 1947 through 1950 and was captain of the team all four years — something Bainbridge friends would say seemed a natural fit.

Friend of Davis, Butch Yarbrough said Davis was his principal while in Bainbridge Junior High School, but the two maintained a relationship after that. Davis helped get Yarbrough a scholarship while in college and he said that was typical of the man everyone called Onion.

“He was always trying to do whatever he could to help anybody and it wasn’t just people who played for him, but in general,” Yarbrough said. “He was a great mentor for all of us our entire lives. He was always real positive if something wasn’t exactly right he would always find the good side of it and turn it around and make it positive.”

In 1954, he came to Bainbridge as an assistant football coach under Coach Jim Luck. Davis became the Bearcats’ head football coach in 1955 when Luck, who later became head baseball coach at Georgia Tech, left.

During his 10-year tenure as BHS’ head football coach, from 1955 through 1965, Coach Davis led the Bearcats to a 10-0 regular season record and Region 1AA championship in 1960, an 8-2 record in 1958, a 9-1 record in 1959, a 7-2-2 record in 1961 and a 7-3 record in 1962. He also coached the BHS track and golf teams during that time.

In his later years Davis hunted often for turkeys and enjoyed deer season. Some say he made homemade scuppernong wine that he enjoyed.

Friend of Davis’ Ramsay Simmons III said he enjoyed visiting with Davis when the two had neighboring farms.

“I don’t know where the nickname onion came from but when he was our principal we were too afraid to ask,” Simmons said, noting Davis was a disciplinarian who gave tough love, but all loved him and cherished his wisdom.

“He will be truly missed by this community there is no question about that. There was no one who knew him who didn’t respect him and everyone liked him,” Simmons said.

Sports writer Joe Crine contributed to this report.