Francis Asbury Davis, Sr. (1804-1866)
was a central figure in most Maryland Southern Baptist activities and ministries for over forty years. Besides his volunteer work for the (Maryland Baptist Church Life) paper, he served as Maryland Convention president, executive committee chair, investment committee chair, Church Extension Society president, forty-year member of the State Mission Board, treasurer of the Baptist Children’s Aid Society, as well as other posts.
On the national denominational scene, he proved influential as chair of Maryland’s first Committee on the Cooperative Program, as an original member of the SBC Executive Committee, and on the boards of the Foreign Mission Board, the Southern Baptist Foundation, and three SBC seminaries; Southern, New Orleans, and Midwestern. A graduate of Johns Hopkins with a major in Greek, Davis, a member of the McCormick Memorial and then University Baptist, made all these contributions as a lay businessman. In many ways, he was a successor to the Levering brothers in Maryland Baptist life. The financial resources which freed Davis to serve so impressively came from the same enterprise which enabled Maryland Baptist founder Henry Sater to make his contribution, for Davis was president of a tobacco business founded by his grandfather.
Davis was named chair of the new Cooperative Program committee, appointed by the MBUA to assist in the transition at the end of the Seventy-five Million Campaign which was adopted by the SBC at its seventy-fifth anniversary.
Davis chauffeured Dr. Joseph T. Watts, convention president, to conduct the Lord’s business on behalf of Maryland Baptists. Davis, the tobacco baron, chauffeured Watts because Watts did not own an automobile or drive.
Davis named the first women to the MBUA State Mission Board in 1927. He chose his own wife, the wives of Eugene Levering and Oscar Levy, and WMU president Clara Woolford.
Davis was strongly opposed to Southern Baptist involvement in the Northeast. He led the resistance to Jolly’s proposal to explore adopting the Baptist chapel in Manhattan as a mission. In the pages of the April 1958 Maryland Baptist, Davis argued that it made no sense for a Baptist church to be out of fellowship with other Baptist churches in its own community, yet a member of a state convention hundreds of miles away.
He also feared the Home Mission Board would use the new territory work to put an undue financial burden upon Maryland.
Executive Director Roy Gresham called Davis the last of the influential businessmen who had dominated Maryland Baptist life between the two world wars.
Material used in this biography were taken from:
You Are A Great People, by W. Loyd Allen
Historical files of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware