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Davis' motivation behind eye-catching billboard

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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It's the kind of sign which can't help but capture your attention if you're driving down Airways Boulevard near Park in Memphis.

It's giant billboard with a college graduate opposite a youth wearing saggy pants. The powerful message that the advertisement sends is the brainchild of Fred Davis, a former Memphis city councilman and Civil Rights icon.

Davis' life has been all about achievement, and still continues to be. But, he didn't get that way because he danced to the same tune as everybody else. That's why he's hoping his giant-sized message to the youth of Orange Mound will prompt them to do some thinking on their own.

We all want to believe there is truth in advertising. But Davis is willing to put his money behind a truth that some of the city's African American youth just aren't willing to handle.

Since Wednesday travelers along Airways Boulevard just past Park have honked in appreciation of a huge billboard with an even bigger message.

"So young people could see the difference," he said. "That it's all about your mind and not your behind. I decided to make the investment and to purchase that billboard space and I assure you it is not inexpensive."

Davis says when he ordered the billboard he really didn't think about the timing as to when it might go up. The fact it just so happens to coincide with the Southern Heritage Classic weekend showcasing the best historical Black colleges have to offer in education and athletics, well, that's icing on the cake for the former Tennessee State graduate.

Actually, for the man who walked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during his final march in Memphis, days before his assassination, the billboard's words are more targeted for those youth in his own Orange Mound neighborhood. They echo a philosophy Davis and his family have turned into successful careers.

If you want to be something in life, start out by being your own person.

"It is the nature of young people to follow the crowd," he said. "I maintain, even when I was a in high school and in college, that the crowd is usually wrong.

"Young people, especially young African American men, need role models, need role models near where they are," the Civil Rights pioneer added. "Many of my friends, when they achieve economic success, move into neighborhoods where they're not needed, where moving to neighborhoods where their image doesn't make a difference. I made a deliberate decision to stay in Orange Mound."

Davis, recently chosen as the only African American in the top 100 influential insurance executives in the country, knows his billboard or the motive behind it might not be embraced by all. But, then as we said, Davis, has never been afraid to be his own person.
"I was not advertising my agency," he said. "I only put my name up there so if somebody got mad and wanted to blame somebody, wanted to agitate somebody, I'm the one. I said it. I did it!"

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