Davis memories full of love and laughter Legacy Award

Picture the scene: Frank Davis, just 17 years old, and his 19-year-old brother James were on a bus headed to play basketball at this new college, Oklahoma Christian, that didn’t even have a gym.

But the coach at Arkansas Tech had gotten word of their plan, and he appeared at the next stop in Fort Smith to “remind” the Davis brothers they had signed to play for him. 

Besides, he told them, no one had ever heard of that other school and they would ruin their lives and careers if they went. 

Men of their word, James and Frank played in Russellville that year (and won the conference), then blazed a trail to enroll at Oklahoma Christian and play for Coach Ray Vaughn.

“We weren’t impressed that there was no gym, but Sue Vaughn made us some cinnamon rolls, and that helped a little bit,” Frank said. “Coach Vaughn told us, ‘Boys, the most important thing I want to tell you is that most young men find their wives at college. If you want to have a Christian family, this would be a good place to come. He had no idea how important that was to us.”

Both Davis boys played key roles on those early Eagle teams, which went 57-15 with at least one of them in the lineup. 

Frank averaged 26.2 points as a senior (that’s still OC’s single-season record) and was drafted by the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks in 1963. 

James (62) and Frank (63) met their future wives at Oklahoma Christian, too. 

The lovely and talented duo of Judy Watson (64) and Karen Oller (63) were childhood friends and basketball fans.

“Hardly anyone had a car. So we either double dated or quadrupled dated and sometimes borrowed a truck from a flower shop,” Judy said. “We all wanted to drive and have the front seat, or else we’d have to sit on boxes in the back.”

“It was five or six months before James and I were ever by ourselves on a date,” Karen said. “Of course, OC encouraged double dating, back when the rules were more stringent than they are now!”

James graduated first and started a successful career in education. 

A year after Frank graduated, Oklahoma Christian needed a new basketball coach. 

Frank got the job at 22 years old, and spent 10 years as Coach Davis, taking the Eagles to the national tournament in 1968. 

He later joined Coach Vaughn and Jeff Bennett (70) in OC’s first Athletic Hall of Fame class in 1991. 

Fast forward to this year’s Homecoming, and the Davis family will receive the Legacy Award at the Alumni Banquet during Homecoming. 

Frank first got the news during a Homecoming planning meeting with Bob Lashley (74), executive director of alumni relations, who told Frank NOT to tell James. 

And of course, when Frank DID tell James, he asked him not to tell Bob.

But when Bob called James, he asked if he had talked to Frank in the last five minutes. 

“He trapped me. I wasn’t going to tell him,” James said. “This is the greatest recognition you can have, because it’s really going to go on and on. Twenty years and we’ll have great-grandchildren there.”

“We don’t pressure them to go,” Karen said.

“We don’t either,” said Judy, who then whispered in her classic deadpan humor, “but we do.”

Both couples sent all of their children to OC, and the grandchildren are blazing the path to OC, too. 

Most of them who live in the area gathered at Frank and Judy’s house on a recent evening to be interviewed about the honor. The house was full of love, laughter and OC memories (and Judy’s and Karen’s desserts!).

If you count it up, there has been a Davis child or grandchild as an OC student or employee almost every year since 1958. 

That’s a lot of ballgames, Spring Sings and commencement exercises. And a legacy worth celebrating.

“Not only did OC provide all of us with an excellent education and spiritual training, the experience made our lives better, our children’s lives better, and their children’s lives better,” Frank said. “Our once little unheard of college has become a strong, mature and highly respected institution of higher learning known around the world. I am proud to sing out with the rest of my fellow grads, ‘Hail to Oklahoma Christian.’ I love that song and all that it means to me.”

By Dawn Shelton (90)