Bing Davis honored with Citizen Legion of Honor Award

Artist, educator and exemplary servant-leader: Willis Hoke “Bing” Davis is well deserving of the Citizen Legion of Honor Award from the Presidents Club of Dayton, members and friends declared Thursday in the club’s annual gathering.

“You are the definition of a living legend,” State Rep. Willis Blackshear Jr., D-Dayton, told Davis at a luncheon held in Davis’ honor at the Dayton Convention Center.

“This has been the most unusual and unexpected day of my life,” Davis said on accepting the award.

Davis is the 71st recipient of the organization’s 2022 Citizen Legion of Honor Award.

ExploreBing Davis: A lifetime of ‘reaching back’

The award, given annually since 1951 (2020 was a pandemic exception) is the oldest and most continuous recognition of volunteer servant leadership in the Dayton region.

Davis is recognized as an educator, teacher, professor, artist and curator. Over the decades, he worked with students at Dayton Public Schools, Miami and Central universities and shared his art with the community at his EbonNia Gallery, his West Third Street art studio.

Credit: EASTERLING STUDIOS

Credit: EASTERLING STUDIOS

“Bing has been the driving force of many important cultural and arts projects and initiatives not only in the Dayton region, but in Ohio and beyond,” the club said.

In his acceptance remarks, Davis marveled in gratitude at the start he had in East Dayton, being raised on Diamond Avenue, where his mother, family and community helped send him to college after he graduated from Wilbur Wright High School in 1955. His church sent him off to DePauw University with $35 and change collected from the congregation.

“I cannot imagine the President’s Club giving me an award like this, to someone who was only doing what his mama said he should do,” he said.

Davis is the only artist to have attained all five of Ohio’s most distinguished awards given for service to others and for the arts, including years of volunteer service as vice-chairman of the Ohio Arts Council, the Presidents Club noted.

“It’s great to see us honor an artist,” said State Sen. Niraj Antani, R-Miami Twp. “The arts community in Dayton is truly vibrant. Art is what binds us together and makes life worth living.”

“Every piece of art tells a story, and it tells stories that don’t get told too often,” Blackshear said, going on to mention that Davis is working on a sculpture of Dayton poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, a statue that will be placed near the Dayton Library main branch downtown.

“I daresay there are thousands of young people he has touched and helped,” said Phil Parker, the event co-chair and himself a recipient of the Citizen’s Legion of Honor award.

Said Davis: “I enjoyed being a servant of the community.”

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