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'The matriarch of Milledgeville': Family remembers Baldwin County Commissioner Geneva Davis

Geneva Bell Davis was the first Black woman to serve as Baldwin County commissioner. She died Saturday at the age of 95.

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — Geneva Bell Davis was a Baldwin County commissioner and it seems like serving there runs in the Davis family. She died Saturday at the age of 95.

13WMAZ went and spoke to people in Milledgeville, including some who called her a pioneer and others who called her family.

Davis was on the Baldwin County Commission for the past nine years as the first Black woman to serve. Now, her daughter, Emily Davis, is following in her footsteps. 

"I have some big, big shoes to fill, I promise you,” she says. 

Emily's father, Oscar Davis, first served in 1984 as Baldwin County's first African- American commissioner. He filed a civil rights lawsuit to get there. 

"We did not have minority/majority districts in Baldwin County, and he was one of the plaintiffs for that, so that all people would have representation,” she explains. 

Emily says her father died after serving four terms, and her mother, Geneva, was offered his post.

"And I said, 'Mama, that's an honor and a privilege,' I said, 'So do it,' and she took a deep breath and said, 'OK,' and the rest is history.”

Emily says her mother was a kind and gentle woman. She was diagnosed with colon cancer three years ago but she was vibrant to the end. 

"She did whatever she could for Baldwin County, even beyond county commission,” Emily says. 

Mayor Mary Parham-Copelan is related to the Davis family through marriage. She says Geneva was always trying to help where she could. 

"She's been the matriarch of Milledgeville to me,” Parham-Copelan explains.

She says Geneva led by example. 

"When she took her husband's seat, she stepped right in and did not miss a beat taking care of the community. As the first African-American female, she actually set a trend for women to follow,” Commissioner Kendrick Butts said.

Butts says his family knew the Davises before he was born.

"She was a woman of few words -- mild and meek -- but when she spoke, she spoke to your heart,” he says. 

He says he sees "Miss Davis" as family and he'll miss her. 

"And I thank God for blessing me to be in her presence and enjoy our time with her on this Earth,” Butts says. 

The funeral for Geneva Davis will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Milledgeville's Trinity CME Church. The Davis family thanks everyone for their prayers and kindness.

   

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