RALEIGH, N.C. — The late Bonnie Bedal Briley Davis, a 1949 graduate of Shaw University, and a 1986 inductee in the Shaw University Athletic Hall of Fame for excellence in basketball, was honored on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of the Bonnie B. Davis Environment and Agricultural Center in Hillsborough, North Carolina. The building is the first and only Agricultural Center in North Carolina named after an African American woman, and it is also only the second Orange County facility named for an African American. The building is located off of US Route 70. “The Shaw University family is proud to honor the service and legacy of our alumna Bonnie Davis. We join her family and friends in celebrating the new Environment and Agricultural Center in Hillsborough named in her honor,” said Dr. Paulette Dillard, President of Shaw University.
Davis was one of eight children born to Oscar and Dussie Briley in Robersonville, North Carolina. She graduated from high school as a top student and basketball star. She went on to attend Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., where she was initiated into the Alpha Rho Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. At Shaw, she continued to be an outstanding scholar and basketball player, and was ultimately inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1949, Mrs. Davis married Tarleton Davis, and from this union came their beloved daughter, Dr. Bonita Davis Neighbors.
Davis went on to become Orange County’s first Black Home Economics Extension Agent and a community builder who spent her 40-year career (from 1950-1990) and her retirement helping county residents improve the quality of their lives. Davis worked primarily in the areas of housing and food and nutrition — teaching families how to live healthier lifestyles regardless of their financial resources. Many residents in Orange County credit her with changing the trajectory of their lives, and directing them to career paths they never thought they were capable of. She believed that everyone, regardless of where they started in life, could excel given the right opportunity and the necessary training and resources. She believed that literacy was the foundation of opportunity.
Davis was a devoted member of Mount Bright Baptist Church for over 70 years, where she served faithfully and tirelessly in numerous ministries. She also served in a number of community organizations and was a lifelong member of the Links, Inc. Her legacy of dedicated service continues in the lives of those she touched throughout her lifetime and career. Davis died in 2018 at the age of 92.
Orange County policy allows the Orange County Board of Commissioners to name buildings and other public property for living or deceased people who have made significant contributions to improving the lives of Orange County residents. Only one other county building is named for an African American person. Shaw University is proud to honor the rich legacy and inspiring accomplishments our alumna Bonnie Bedal Briley Davis.