By Timothy Cox
Special to the AFRO

For Marian Elizabeth Wilson Davis, being the mother of a college president is way more than what she ever envisioned, upon adopting a little 3-year-old boy back in 1972. 

Forty-seven years ago, Marian and her husband Belford Davis, were in the midst of contemplating parenthood, especially after learning that she could not conceive.

Ultimately, the Davises adopted young Roger Wilson Davis and last year, Roger, now 50, was elected as the first African-American president of the Community College of Beaver County in the Pittsburgh suburb of Monaca, Pa.

Dr. Roger Davis with his adopted mother, Marian Davis. (Courtesy Photo)

While Marian is obviously proud of her son, unfortunately, her deceased husband of 40 years was unable to witness their son’s monumental achievement. 

Meanwhile, it should be known that, at age 91, she has her own story to share — one that transpired many moons prior to her son earning his presidential status.

The native of rural Darlington, Md. in Harford County (30 miles north of Baltimore), eighth of 10 children, Marion grew up in a rural environment and attended racially-segregated schools where White students were bused to school and Black children had to find the best method of arrival, including walking to school. “We were poor, but we didn’t realize it,” she said.

“We had the separate water fountains and bathrooms, but it was not as bad as the terrorism that folks faced in places like the deep South — in Georgia, Mississippi or Alabama,” she said.

Dr. Roger Davis with his adopted mother, Marian Davis. (Courtesy Photo)

After graduating from Bel Air Colored High School in 1944, she matriculated at Morgan State College (now Morgan State University) where she graduated with a physical education degree.

She enjoyed a 40-plus career as a physical education teacher in both Calvert and Baltimore county schools. Her husband worked for Bell Telephone and AT&T first as janitor before retiring as a telephone booth coin-collector.  He died in 2008.

“I’ve out-lived all my siblings, my husband and all my friends,” said Marion during a recent interview with the AFRO. “Sometimes I feel lonely, but it’s all right,” said the proud mother, who turned 91 on April 4 – ironically, the anniversary date of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in Memphis, Tenn. in 1968. 

She remains strong in her faith, and is a longtime member of Union Bethel AME Church of Randallstown, Md.

When she thinks of church, it often reminds her of the times when little Roger would do his Michael Jackson “Moonwalk” dance impressions in front of the whole church,” she laughed.

At age 42, Marion, with her husband’s nod, made the decision to adopt little Roger, on a day she was home from her teaching duties.

“I was watching a program called “A Child is Waiting.” The little boy was on a tricycle and kept riding up to the TV camera – he was just so sweet and adventurous. I talked to my husband, made the necessary calls and it happened. 

We interacted with his foster family initially, because he had four other siblings. He was well-trained and came from a good foster family. He had never lived with his real (biological) family. He wanted to visit his birth mother at one point, we approved, but he never said much about them after that – and we left it alone.”

“In school, his teachers said he was a very talkative youngster – always turning around from his desk in class – but he was a good student and always came home with good grades.

“I really thought he was going to be a minister. He spent so much time in church; he loved to sing, write and produce plays,” she said.

Four decades later, that same ”adorable child” was recently inaugurated as president of the Community College of Beaver County (CCBC). Roger Wilson Davis, now 50, is a proud Baltimorean and like his mother, has also enjoyed an illustrious career as an educator, including 9 months as the college’s acting president. The college’s 9-member board of directors unanimously elected him as their 9th president – the first African-American to head the 53-year-old institution.

Meeting with his biological mother helped him secure answers to questions that had bothered him for years.

“She explained that she was in an abusive relationship and couldn’t raise five young children,” he said. “I told her I was okay and I had no regrets or blame toward her and that God had led my path.”