History of the Restoration Movement

William Derrel Davis


Derrel Davis - Times Daily Obituary

Mr. Derrel Davis, age 64, of Florence, died Friday, May 20, 2005, at his residence.

He was a native of Lauderdale County, a member of the Underwood Petersville Kiwanis and served as a Church of Christ minister for 42 years. He presently served the congregation at Bethel Berry Church of Christ as their minister.

Visitation is from 3-8 p.m. today, May 22, 2005, at Mars Hill Bible School auditorium. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Monday at Mars Hill Bible School Auditorium, with burial in Pine Hill Church of Christ Cemetery. Officiating at the service will be Kenny Barfield, Kenneth Davis and Milton Sewell.

Derrel was a graduate of Mars Hill Bible School, Freed-Hardeman University, Henderson Tennessee, and David Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he received his B.A. degree in speech and Bible.

Derrel attended many workshops, classes and lectureships, as well as state and nation Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) conferences.

Derrel was executive director of CASA of Florence/Lauderdale County from October 2001 to May 15, 2005. He preached for the Petersville Church of Christ in Florence from June 1980 to January, 2001 and Stony Point Church of Christ in Florence from 1964-1980. He taught Bible, English and geography at Mars Hill Bible School, Florence, and served as assistant basketball coach.

He ministered at Center Chapel Church of Christ, Mount Juliet, Tennessee and Maude Church of Christ, Maude, Alabama; instructor, International Bible College (Heritage Christian University) part time for several years; instructor, Leadership and Growth International and taught in leadership seminars in Dominica, St. Vincent and Grenada; instructor, Campaign in Bermuda; instructor, Faulkner University, Florence campus, part-time for several years.

Derrel averaged preaching at least five gospel meetings each year over the last 30 years in Alabama, California, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, Guyana and Canada.

Derrel was an excellent after-dinner speaker for various educational, civic, religious and youth groups.

Derry had a thorough knowledge of the Bible (New Testament committed to memory), excellent public relations and enjoyed working with people of all ages. He had excellent oral and written communications skills, including computer skills, excellent organizational and leadership skills, including mediation skills.

Derrel was committed to many community activities. With the helps of other community volunteers and Judge Larry Mack Smith, he organized the Florence/Lauderdale CASA to advocated for abused children in Florence and Lauderdale County.

His many accomplishments include advisory council member for Retired Senior Volunteer Persons since 1991; quality assessment committee member of Lauderdale County Department of Human Resource; served as board member of Mid-South Home Health Care Agency and Hospice of the Shoals; served as president of Underwood/Petersville Community Center since 1991; served on advisory council, Tennessee Valley Juvenile Detention Center; member, Florence Comprehensive Care Center Board; worked in various political campaigns, both local and state; coached Dixie Youth baseball and football; served as board member and served as president, Underwood Dixie Youth, Florence, Alabama; served as district director, Dixie Boys Baseball, for 18 years; secretary and board member, Underwood and Petersville Volunteer Fire Department; coached junior pro basketball, Mars Hill Bible School; served as FTA (Friends/Teachers Association) president; and Vacation Bible School director while preaching at Stony Point Church of Christ and Petersville Church of Christ.

Mr. Davis was preceded in death by his parents, Walter William and Martha Ann Renfroe Davis, and his father-in-law, Delmar Hipps.

He is survived by his loving wife of 43 years, LaVerne Hipps Davis, of Florence; two sons, Walter "Walt" Davis and wife, Carol, of Madison, Alabama, and Dale Davis and wife, Sabrina, of Florence; sister, Margaret Ann Davis Pigg, of Florence; three grandchildren, Drake, Cidney and Will Davis, of Florence; one step-grandson: Collin Russell, of Florence; special mother-in-law, Vera Hipps; and a special motherly friend, Kate Bland, Of Mount Juliet, Tennessee.

Pallbearers will be Dick Harrison, Gerald Clark, Billy Weaver, Gary Crow, Marold Pigg and Larry Hipps.

Honorary pallbearers will include Reed Burleson, DeWayne Oakley, Larry Mack Smith, Bobby Denton, Dr. Ricky Irons, Richard Beckman, Coy Gray, Same Blackman, Wayne Fowler, David Willingham, Jack's breakfast buddies, Underwood/Petersville Kiwanis members, and fellow Church of Christ ministers.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Derrel Davis Scholarship Fund, Mars Hill Bible School, Florence, Alabama, or to Bethel Berry Church of Christ Building Fund, ℅ Danny Stutts, 195 County Road 270, Florence, Alabama 35633.
Greenview Funeral Home, of Florence, is directing.

-Florence Times Daily, Sunday, May 22, 2005, page 2B

What Mars Hill Bible School Has Meant To First Enrollee

Before my father departed this life on November 15, 1945, "it was noised abroad" that plans for a Bible School were in the making to be housed on the campus formerly occupied by the late T. B. Larimore. The name of the new school would be, Lauderdale County Bible -School - later changed to Mars Hill Bible School. My beloved father expressed to my mother his desire for my sister and me to attend the new school. Following his death, mother (Martha Anne Davis), better known affectionately as just M.A., faithfully arranged for his wishes to materialize.

A letter was written by mother to the late Dr. W. W. Alexander, our family physician and newly appointed chairman of the new school's board, requesting employment since she was noW sole provider of the Davis household. Dr. Alexander passed the letter on to brother Irvin Lee, then president of Athens Bible School, but soon to' be president of the school at Mars Hill.

Upon consulting mother about her plans and wishes, brother Lee assured her employment at Mars Hill- resulting in 30 uninterrupted years of service. Mother's work began in the summer of 1947. The late sister Mittie Mae Pate moved from Athens Bible School where she had served as secretary, to become secretary of the newly formed institution at Mars Hill. Brother Lee drew up the application forms for prospective students, had sister Pate run copies on an old spirit duplicator, and then said to mother, "I want you to fill out the first application for enrollment - the enrollment of your son, Derrel, and your daughter, Margaret Anne. I was enrolled. for the first grade and Margaret Anne the fifth grade.


Upon mother's arrival from work on that .hot, muggy, uncomfortable summer afternoon of 1947, she informed me. that I was now officially enrolled as a first grader. This wash't exactly the most thrilling news I had heard. I didn't want to leave the warm .security of hotneand familiar surroundings .. r didn't wartt to leave granddaddy and' grandmother Davis who had just "taken me in" following dad's death as mother prepared herself for secular work by attending Larimore Business College. I saw absolutely no need for an education.

Mother just kept insisting, "Son, you have a mind, you have a spirit, you have a body. Together they make you the whole person God intended." Frequently mother would say, "Son, you are a bright young man and someday you'll come out on top."

She was right about one thing, I have certainly come out on top - I've lost it all. For the last several years my part has gotten wider and wider. However, I've learned that being bald and being in heaven are just alike - there'll be no parting. To say the least I had an extremely difficult time ad· justing to school life. Mother would just say it's like training for a race - the tougher it is now, the easier it'll be later.


However, it wasn't long before I discovered that the days, months, and years that lay ahead were some of the richest, happiest, and most challenging of my life. The first memory verse mother taught me was not John 3:16, nor John 11:35; but Luke 2:52, "Jesus increased in wisdom, and statue, and in favor with God and man." To my amazement as a first grader I discovered I was in an environment that was stressing exactly what I had been taught. This newly formed school, Mars Hill Bible School, was helping the total person, Derrel Davis, grow spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, and physically just like our Lord. It was indeed a quality Christian School.


Few people have ever defined education better than did Plato 2,500 years ago when he said, "Education is the fairest thing that the best of men can have and the particular learning which leads you throughout your life to hate what should be hated and love ,wliat should be loved. People are educated who have· seen the beautiful and just and good in their truths."

This definition is especially appealing to me because at Mars Hill it was certainly stressed to hate what should be hated, love what should be loved, and to see the beautiful, the just, and the good itt· their truths. This was effectively done through daily Bible classes, daily chapel services, asociation with consecrated teachers and fellow students, and a thoroughly Christian environment. The opportunities to mature spiritually were unlimited.

"Whole persons" was the purpose at Mars Hill—they called it total education. Your heart and mind learned together. Emphases were also placed on excellence—in a Christian context. It was stressed that there is no incompatibility between the teachings of Christ and the desire to achieve academic excellence. The Lord did all things well and demanded the best from men. He never required more than his servants were capable of giving but he was never satisfied with lessthan the best.

At Mars Hill the Bible was more than just a part it was the heart of the curriculum. It was Mars Hill's specialty! Every aspect of the curriculum reflected the committment to Christ. Bible class was the First period in the day and as students we were encouraged to get our Bible assignment first at night.

I looked forward to the first period in the day. It was the ideal way of beginning the day. A day is well started when it begins with a study of the Bible. At Mars Hill the Bible was basic. There is no substitute for a well-balanced Bible centered curriculum. As Dr. J. Edward Hakes said, "Young people need to know a faith in Christ, which does no violence to their intelligence." Yes, Mars Hill was known for its academic and spiritual vitality!!


The school served as an extention of my Christian home. It helped my mother not only in providing her with gainful employment but also in the job of training me "in the way I should go." The school helped me to become a grown disciple of Jesus Christ, with a thorough Christian Biblical understanding of life.

My 12 years at Mars Hill prepared me for years of service to God and helped me get started in the right direction. I found the school to be a place to prepare me for a place in God's tomorrow.

I enjoyed the warmth of a small Christian campus in a beautiful rural setting. I learned to succeed and to serve. Mars Hill offered me a bold approach in preparing me for life. It was a place where character was developed with intellect. The warmth and the lifelong friends are things I'll always treasure.


I am convinced that I am what I am today because of the teachers that I had; some of the brotherhood's most qualified. These teachers stressed and exemplified learning to live for Jesus in an exciting and balanced way. They were committed and competent, encouraging my spiritual development, as well as my intellectual growth. The faculty members were known for proficiency in thought, preparation, and skill. They taught "eternal values." Underlying all their teaching was the fact the individual is the mainspring of democracy and his effectiveness is determined by his education.

With the faculty personal growth was most important. The faculty and staff worked hard to help me grow as an individual, a Christian, and a thinker. They gave me the warm, personal support I needed to reach higher: academically, physically, and spiritually.

Being around so many people who lived out their faith strengthened my own Christian walk. I received a lot of individual attention .in a "caring environment." It was an individualized and personalized education. My teachers very ably stressed that learning is a lifelong privilege; that education is not a task to be completed, but a process to be continued. The facts of the Bible were learned; however, it is a lifelong effort to learn how the facts should be applied in daily living. I was often reminded that the great people of the Bible were always learning and growing.


While a student at Mars Hill I was taught three things with reference to the Bible. (1) You need to know it; (2) you need to live it; and (3) you need to communicate it. This idea of communicating it was underlined repeatedly. So, many of my teachers suggested I preach the gospel since I had the foundation and was rooted deeply in the scriptures. I was told, "One's best preparation for Christian service is in a Christian School. "

After graduation from Mars Hill I began to discover the true value of a well-earned Mars Hill degree. Upon arrival at David Lipscomb College, for four more years of Christian education, the late Batsell Barrett Baxter talked with me about my twelve years of Christian education. He simply put it. like this, "The truth of tl1le education is whether it causes us to do the thing we have to do, when it ought to be done, whether we like it or not." He then said, "Derrel, if you can do anything else, then don't preach." At first I thought, what advice! However, I soon got the full impact of his statement. Paul's statement, "Yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel of Christ," began to weigh heavily upon my heart. The decision was then made, with the help of my devoted wife, LaVerne, who was working to "put hubby through," to change majors, from Business to Speech with a minor in Bible.


Following graduation from Lipscomb in August of 1964, I returned to my alma mater to teach and to my home congregation, Stony Point, to preach. For four years I tried to do both, only to discover I needed to devote full time to preaching. Sixteen of the best years of our lives were spent with the fine congregation at Stony Point. For the past three and a half years we have enjoyed a most challenging work in. reestablishing a congregation in the Petersville area, just inside the city limits of Florence. Yes, where Christian education goes the church prospers. Churches are blessed with competent workers.

I can truthfully say with the late, beloved Ralph Snell, one of the most influential teachers in my life, "I have no regrets nor complaints about the costs of time, money, and energy involved and nothing but praise and gratitude to God and to the many supporters of Christian education for the wonderful receipts I have enjoyed. Investment in Christian education pays rich dividends."

My sixteen years of Christian education is greatly appreciated. I was given something no one can take from me. As the late Judge Sam Davis Tatum of the Juvenile Court in Nashville, Tennessee, said: "An understanding of God's will through his word is essential in understanding the forces of the world and one's place in it. In the Christian school I found the chart and compass of my life."

-Derrel Davis, World Evangelist, February, 1984, page 14

Directions To The Grave of Derrel Davis

Derrel Davis is buried in the Pine Hill church of Christ Cemetery in north Lauderdale County, Alabama. From Florence, head out Hwy. 133, Cox Creek Parkway, to the end, and turn right on Hwy. 20. Go north 14.6 miles and turn right on Lauderdale County Rd. 8. Go a 9/10ths of a mile and turn left on Lauderdale County Rd. 10. Go 1.1 miles and enter the church cemetery on the right. The McCorkle plot is in the very front row, next to another preacher, Eugene Pigg. One row behind will be another preacher. George McCorkle. The GPS location of the grave: 34°59'01.6"N 87°51'59.6"W / or D.d. 34.983770,-87.866568

Pine Hill Church of Christ & Cemetery
Eugene Pigg & George H. McCorkle in Foreground
Davis Plot on Next Row

Wm. Derrel
November 16, 1940
May 20, 2005

Photos Taken 2010
Courtesy of Scott Harp

Web Editor's Note: It was my esteemed pleasure to have had the opportunity to hear Derrel Davis preach on several occasions. While a student at Heritage Christian University (then International Bible College), Brother Davis was an occasional speaker in chapel services.Two things stuck out in my mind as I heard him speak. One, was that Derrel had the most humble, down-home, North Alabama accent, you ever heard. From it one might get the idea that he was a country bumpkin. Which brings me to the second thing that stood out. He was one of the most capable handlers of the Scriptures ever to have preached. The man could literally quote books after books of Scriptures. In a twenty minute lesson, he could quote 75 to 100 verses of Scripture, in a most adequate and pertinent way. He was a mastermind at memorizing Scriptures. He even taught classes on how to memorize. In the end, Derrel Davis will go down in history as one of those preachers that may not have been known on the national scene among churches of Christ, but in the places where he was known, no one could out preach him. His loss was far too soon. He was a giant for God.

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