June 11, 1999

Matriarch of family with close ties to Vanderbilt dies at 105

Matriarch of family with close ties to Vanderbilt dies at 105


Frances Bond Davis

When Frances Bond Davis was born, the Wright brothers were still a decade away from lifting off from the sands of Kitty Hawk, N.C.

That year, 1893, Grover Cleveland was president, Mark Twain was still alive, the Spanish-American War was five years off and X-rays – a staple of diagnostic medicine for a century – had not yet been discovered.

Matriarch of a Nashville family with long and distinguished ties to Vanderbilt University, Mrs. Davis died last week at the age of 105. She leaves behind a legacy of contribution to both the university and the medical center.

One of her two sons, the late Joseph C. Davis Jr., was a Vanderbilt tennis legend, winning 35 titles, including three Southeastern Conference championships, between 1936 and 1942. He was also a longtime benefactor of the university and served on the Vanderbilt Board of Trust. The family of Mrs. Davis is responsible for endowing, through his foundation, the Joe C. Davis Professor of Biomedical Science chair, currently held by Dr. Daryl K. Granner.

"Frances Davis was the matriarch of a wonderful family who has been enormously supportive of Vanderbilt throughout many, many years," said Dr. Roscoe R. "Ike" Robinson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs, Emeritus. "Her son Joe and her daughter Bond were, and are, active in numerous medical center programs.

"This institution has indeed been fortunate to be so closely associated with Mrs. Davis and her family. The Davis family has done much for Vanderbilt University and the medical center, and she deserves a lot of the credit," Robinson said.

Mrs. Davis lived a long and productive life and bore witness to a century's worth of dramatic growth and change that transformed the landscape of not only Nashville, but also the United States.

During World War I, the war that was supposed to end all wars, she worked for the Red Cross, rolling bandages that would be sent to the bloody front lines in France to treat injured soldiers.

After the war, Mrs. Davis – then in her mid-20s – served as a forerunner for today's activists, taking part in the struggle to secure women the right to vote. At the time, Tennessee was considered a "swing" state in the suffrage movement, and through the efforts of Mrs. Davis and countless others, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was finally passed in 1920.

In her later years, Mrs. Davis remained vibrant. An avid bridge player, she maintained weekly games right up to her death. She also embraced the newest technologies and was a user of e-mail.

In addition to Joe C. Davis Jr., Mrs. Davis had two other children – son Rascoe Bond Davis (deceased) and daughter Bond Davis DeLoache.

Besides her daughter, Mrs. Davis is survived by her daughter-in-law, Dugan Coughlan Davis; her son-in-law, Dr. William DeLoache; six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Mrs. Davis attended Miss Annie Allison's School, Ward's Seminary, Vanderbilt University and Columbia University and was a longtime member of Immanuel Baptist Church.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to: Harpeth Hall School, 3801 Hobbs Road, Nashville 37215; or Montgomery Bell Academy, 4001 West End Ave., Nashville 37205.