John T. Davis, Jr.
One of High Point, North Carolina's signature citizens, the CEO of Davis Furniture Industries for almost 40 years, John T. Davis, Jr. was born in Asheboro, North Carolina on September 4th, 1922, the son of John T. Davis, Sr. and Hattie Lee Davis. Soon thereafter, the family moved to High Point where his father became foreman at Tomlinson Chair Manufacturing Company.
After graduating from High Point High School, and after a brief stint at Tomlinson's Furniture, Davis enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard in September 1941. He served his country for two years in the North Atlantic and then was sent to gunnery school for training, and spent the remainder of World War II in the South Pacific. Immediately after the surrender of Japan, the ship he was aboard was one of the first American vessels to sail into the harbor at Shanghai, China. Davis was honorably discharged from the service on Christmas Eve 1945.
While John T. Davis, Jr. was away at war, his father, John T. Davis Sr., started Davis Upholstery Company in 1944. Upon his return to High Point, Davis, Jr. joined the business his father had started during the war, and on May 26, 1946, married Frances Honbarrier. The family business grew steadily through the next two decades with Davis, Jr. serving as a manager and vice president.
John T. Davis, Sr. retired in 1964 and John T. Davis, Jr. assumed the role as president. He renamed the company Davis Furniture Industries, Inc., and guided the company to remarkable success for over 30 years. During his time as President and CEO, he oversaw 15 factory expansions and grew the company from a single line of chairs to a full line of contract seating, lounge furniture, desks, and conference tables.
Mr. Davis' legacy is one that still echoes throughout Davis Furniture, the contract furniture industry, and the city of High Point. During his lifetime, John Davis, known to many as "Big John," played a key role in the civic affairs of High Point. Beginning with his membership in the Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1948, he was responsible for many outstanding contributions to the community. In these early years, he served as a board member and treasurer for many local organizations including the Jaycees, March of Dimes, and the Salvation Army, and was one of the founders of the Furnitureland Kiwanis Club.
His work with the Christmas Cheer Fund in the early 1960's saved it from obscurity, and because of his efforts, the fund still provides Christmas for many of High Point's underprivileged families, 58 years later.
In 1965, he was appointed by the governor to the Board of Directors for Guilford Technical Institute, now called Guilford Technical Community College, and was elected its Chairman for consecutive years between 1969 and 1981. His tenure was one of phenomenal growth for the institution, with tremendous advances in both curriculum offerings and the size of the campus. By the time of his departure, the college was viewed among the elite of the state's system. For his extraordinary efforts, in the winter of 1983, "Davis Hall" was named in his honor.
When the High Point Rescue Squad needed a new facility, "Big John" stepped in to help arrange financing, provide building materials, and personally joined in the construction efforts to raise the structure. In appreciation, the building was dedicated in his name, and he was awarded an Honorary Life Membership. He also served on the Board of Directors of High Point Bank and Campbell University, and was involved in a number of causes and organizations far too numerous to mention.
Through all of his immeasurable efforts of service, it was always his desire to avoid the spotlight and to have each of his benefits remain anonymous. Known for his integrity and charity, the most extraordinary measure of John T. Davis, Jr. was his humility.