The indomitable Betty X Davis has breathed her last breath. Betty died on January 5, 2022, at the age of 106 years, 1 month and 11 days. Betty was born on November 25, 1915, Thanksgiving Day, to doting parents, J. Arthur and Edna Cleo Moore Test. In Betty's own words, "My heritage is all Quaker. Plain living, peace loving, honest speaking - and, remarkably, free thinking Quakers. My parents moved to Akron, Ohio, then the Rubber Capital of the World, where my brother, Josiah, and I were born. Finding no Friends Meeting House there, they joined the Episcopal Church but never lost their Quakerism. I can still hear my father say, ‘Betty, eat thy carrots’ and my mother ask, ‘Has thee finished thy homework, Josiah?’ "
She was the embodiment of her Quaker heritage. She was thrifty, pragmatic, practical, honest, anti-gun and all forms of violence, gentle but firm, smart, funny, very progressive in her thinking, and a life-long Democrat.
Betty was christened Elizabeth Test with no middle name. At age eleven, Betty corrected that omission and chose the letter X as a middle initial, which was a wise move, as she eventually became Betty Davis. The X distinguished her from all the other Betty Davises of her generation. At about the same time, Betty began planning the rest of her life with three wishes: to be a movie star, to marry a lawyer, and to have eight children. Two out of three isn't bad, she loved to say. Betty did marry a young law student, Harvey L. Davis, who went on to become a lawyer and a professor of law at Southern Methodist University. Betty and Harvey did go on to have eight children, spanning four decades, from 1938 to 1961. They also adopted a daughter during that time. Betty never became a movie star.
The early years at the Davis household were centered around nightly family dinners plus big Sunday lunches, tennis, swimming, all things SMU, a yearly day trip to Lake Texoma, Northwood Club, more tennis, tennis tournaments, swim meets, art classes, paper routes, babysitting, and babies. The later years at the Davis household were dominated by teenagers, tennis, high school graduations, college graduations (7 from SMU), weddings and grandchildren.
After 45 years in Dallas, Betty and Harvey retired to Austin and built their dream house with tranquil views of hills and sightings of many kinds of birds and deer and squirrels and foxes and other local “critters.” They enjoyed playing tennis and making friends at The Courtyard Tennis Club. They attended many fund raisers and events that promoted liberal causes, and they schmoozed with politicians and personalities and were popular and admired for their philanthropy and dedication.
Always along her crowded path of life, Betty played tennis and wrote. She wrote letters, contest entries (won some), plays (produced, never published), and a curriculum book for speech therapists (in print for ten years). Betty continually worked on writing books and short stories aimed at young adults. Two of Betty’s short stories were published in Spider magazine. Betty was a founding member of the Austin chapter of Society of Children's Bookwriters and Illustrators (SCBWI). As long as she was able, Betty attended all the book launchings at Book People to celebrate colleagues’ successes. A front row seat was always reserved for Betty, and her arrival would be greeted with delight and hugs and kisses from fellow writers, who adored and admired her. The members of SCBWI instituted the Betty X. Davis Young Writers of Merit Award to encourage young people to become writers.
In honor of Betty and as a continuation of Betty’s influence upon books and youth, “Betty’s Book Drive” was established in 2019 by Resources Unlimited HD Foundation and Sodalis Senior Living - Buda. Over 250 books were collected and donated to Tom Green Elementary School with the vision of on-going donations to Central Texas schools via “Betty’s Book.” Sodalis recently dedicated their library “The Betty X Davis Library.”
As Betty and Harvey were avid tennis players, they taught all their children to play. The first hurdle for the children was to beat their mother, which usually took about 1 or 2 years, but Betty was happy when they were good enough to get a win over her. The second hurdle was to beat their father, which was not easy! Betty played tennis until shortly before her 100th birthday, when she realized that she didn't have the strength to serve the ball over the net. She drove her car safely until shortly after her 100th birthday, when she realized that she had driven to the grocery store on a flat tire and immediately decided that would be her last drive.
Betty graduated from Rollins College before she married and earned two MFA's at SMU after her last child was born. She taught speech therapy in the Richardson Public School District.
In Betty's own words: "Things I could never do - sing, cut hair, eat liver, ice skate, play the flute, knit, make a souffle, speak Spanish, and dive from the high board. Ancient crafts I did quite well -ironing, sewing, darning socks, making birthday cakes, baking a turkey, surviving chicken pox, mumps, and measles, saving money, typing on a typewriter." In 2020, Betty would survive Covid 19, also. In her later years, she struggled mightily with her computer, but she managed to email, write books, letters, limericks, poems and receive emails and use Facebook (barely).
Betty was predeceased by her husband of 69 years, Harvey L. Davis, her daughters, Mary Louise Gaddy and Libby Davis Boone, and her dear grandson, Christopher Davis. She is survived by her children: Nancy Labastida and her husband Charles Guittard of Austin; Virginia Palmer and her partner Bill Oliver of Austin; Harvey Davis and his wife, Gayle Hudgens of Buda; Mark Davis and his wife Lynn of Arlington; Charlotte Seifert of Houston; Clayton Davis and his wife Geralyn of Lake Charles, LA; and Talbot Davis and his wife Julie of Charlotte, NC. She is also survived by 12 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to Safe Place or Betty’s Books or a charity of your choice.
The family is deeply grateful to Sodalis Senior Living - Buda for their loving care of Betty for the last 2 years.
A Memorial Service will be held at a later, safer time.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Betty X Davis, please visit our floral store.