Gerard H. Davidson
By Don Bailey
Author’s note: Gerard was a remarkable student and scholar who blossomed early. He is one of only two persons—of whom we are aware—who graduated from Cliffside High and returned to hold a regular faculty position.
Gerard Hadley Davidson was born in Forest City on December 21, 1916, the son of Barney L. and Essie (Price) Davidson. Sometime prior to 1928 the family moved to Cliffside, and Gerard attended Cliffside High School, where he excelled. At age 12, in eighth grade—which was then the freshman year, he won the Declaimers’ Medal given during the events surrounding high school commencement. In 1931, at age 14, Davidson won a county wide—American Legion sponsored—oratorical contest with a speech he had written himself. Gerard was also a member of the Cliffside High debating team and president of the senior class. In 1932 he graduated from Cliffside High School and entered Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC.
As he had in high school, Davidson excelled at Wofford. By his sophomore year he was circulation manager of the campus newspaper, the Old Gold and Black, and by his senior year he was editor-in-chief. Also at Wofford he was president of the literary fraternity, Sigma Upsilon, as well as a member of the Blue Key honor fraternity and winner in 1936 of the annual Wofford College oratorical medal. Upon his graduation in 1936 he was commissioned second lieutenant in the Army Reserves.
On July 24, 1937 when the Cliffside High Alumni Association banquet was held at the Haynes Memorial Building, Gerard Davidson was elected vice president of the organization. That fall he joined the Cliffside High faculty, teaching English and Chemistry. Now in 1936, Miss Virginia Clayton Owens had begun teaching second grade at Cliffside. Gerard soon made Miss Owens’ acquaintance and in due course they were married. The couple eventually had two children, Jan and Gerard, Jr.
Being newly married, and teachers’ salaries being as modest as they have always been, we find Gerard working in the local cannery during the summers of 1939 and 1940 with teacher colleague Fred Barkley. But he also was at Camp McClellan in July of 1940 for additional Army Reserve training, as everyone expected war sooner or later. Somehow during this period he also found time to serve—along with Dudley Brown—as leader of the local Boy Scout troop. By 1941 he was superintendent of the Baptist Sunday School. .
Of course the war did come and by the first week of January 1942 Lieutenant Gerard Davidson had reported to Ft. Benning, GA for active duty. He served as an infantry officer during the war, returning in 1946 to the Cliffside High School faculty, to teach English and Chemistry. He also had other duties; in addition to teaching Davidson coached the debate team, and the girls’ basketball team. He must have been successful because in the spring of 1948 he was chosen to coach the second team in the county girls’ all-star tourney.
Gerard was also active in the community. He assumed again the role of scoutmaster for the local Boy Scout troop. And in 1946, when a new American Legion Post was formed in Cliffside, Davidson served as adjutant. (A legion post had been formed in Cliffside following World War I, but it lasted only a few years.) At the end of the 1947-48 school term Davidson left his teaching position at the high school to take a position as chemist at Duke Power’s Cliffside generating plant and moved his family to the Duke Village; however, his service to Cliffside did not wane.
When the Cliffside High School Alumni met in the fall of 1949,Davidson was president of the group. And when the local Lions Club installed new officers they chose Gerard Davidson as president. In 1954 Davidson was named Cliffside Lions’ Man of the Year. In June of 1955 he became first vice commander of the Cliffside legion post. But unfortunately Cliffside was soon to lose Gerard Davidson again for about 30 years.
In 1956 Davidson was promoted to assistant personnel director at Duke Power’s Charlotte office. Accordingly, the Davidson family moved to Charlotte in 1957. On May 2, 1963 Virginia Davidson died of leukemia and on June 2, 1967 Gerard married Susan Schwabenton Langley.
Davidson retired in 1987 and returned to Cliffside to the friends and the community he had always loved. Following his return to Cliffside, Gerard was a trustee and active member of Cliffside Baptist Church, an officer and supporter of the Cliffside Area Volunteer Fire Department, a student of Scottish history and a celebrant of his Scottish heritage as a member of the Clan Davidson Society.
Gerard Davidson Sr. died Saturday, July 22, 2000, at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte.
This profile was taken from Don Bailey’s book Cliffside High School.