Anthony Ray Davis

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‘Music was his life, and his life was music’

Editor’s Note: An outpouring of love and gratitude was witnessed for the life service of musician, businessman, and philanthropist Anthony Ray Davis who succumbed November 22, 2023. Funeral services were held December 1, 2023 at Mount Nebo M.B. Church, 1245 Tunica St., Jackson, MS, with burial at Parkway Memorial Park in Ridgeland, MS. An eloquent eulogy was delivered by his longtime friend, Rev. Dr. Hickman M. Johnson, Pastor of Farish Street Baptist Church, Jackson, MS. The following is an excerpt from his exaltation of a life well spent.

After dictating a list of “Things To Do,” he focused his attention to less serious matters. He was confident that Aretta would fully comply with his wishes. Was this the action of a careful planner whose personal matters were treated with the same promptness as were his business matters? Or was an unexplained impulse driving him to complete what might be left to another? We may never really know the answer to that question. I am here today, a “reluctant conscript” because he had left instructions for me to give the final tribute. Why me?

More than four decades ago, I gave the eulogy to one of Anthony’s mentors. Most who heard me on that Spring morning had forgotten my words. But not Anthony. At lunch on a pre-Covid day, we happened to meet. To my surprise, he reminded me of my words; words I had spoken on that Spring morning. Of his mentor, I said, “Music was his life, and his life was music.” Those words Anthony never forgot. Perhaps he remembered that simple phrase, not because of its poetry or its eloquence, but because of the man – a man we both respected and admired. He was a friend and mentor to both of us. I mourned his passing as much then, as I mourn Anthony’s passing today.

If I had the powers imparted to the gods, I would have locked death in his cage until the night had passed, and Anthony and I might have enjoyed Thanksgiving Day together. But as much as I wish it were mine to control the powers of death, the risks of abusing that power were too great. Therefore, I bow to the will of the Almighty, whose knowledge is infinite and whose mercy is void of caprice, to determine the length of man’s days. 

We gather in this sacred space because of our love for Anthony. It seems only fair that he, who had walked with us in life, should not walk alone in death. We will walk with him as far as we can, remembering his deeds of kindness. We will reminisce about good times and bad times. We will laugh, and we will cry. And we will thank God who brought us together. We will cherish the memories, and when the sun hides its face behind the horizon, we will celebrate the joy of the daystar. 

We will remember Anthony – the consummate professional. His name was synonymous with Westhaven. As a counselor, he consoled the grieving and helped them through one of the most difficult times of their lives – making final arrangements for a loved one. They trusted Anthony’s judgment and knew he had their best interest at heart. And while they were not related by birth, Anthony was like a member of the family. 

Anthony loved being a funeral director. But he loved being a church musician more. Of Anthony, I will say of him what I once said of his mentor and friend, “Music was his life, and his life was music.”

How many churches did he serve? How many choirs did he train? How many singers did he accompany? The angels serenaded the shepherds – a gift too precious for those who worked the night shift. But God has always lifted the lowly and has filled the hungry with good things. God has brought down the powerful from their thrones and sent the rich away empty.

“Music was his life, and his life was music.”

Like music, Anthony, too, comforted.

Like music, Anthony, too, encouraged.

Like music, Anthony too, inspired!

He took diamonds in the rough, and with the skill of a master, he cut and polished them until they sparkled in the sunlight.

“Music was his life, and his life was music.”

I do not know why bad things happen to good people. I do not know why the young die early. I do not know why the righteous suffer. These realities will confound the erudite. But I know One for whom life is never a mystery.

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Anthony Ray Davis

By Jackson Advocate News Service
December 11, 2023