MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- More than 50 friends of Ken Davidson gathered recently at The Discovery Center at Murfree Spring to pay tribute to a man described as a brilliant marketing and promotions guru, creative photographer and videographer.
Billie Little, founding director of The Discovery Center, was the first to speak. She described how Davidson’s advice helped network and promote the museum from its humble beginning in an older home in downtown Murfreesboro into a state-of-the-art facility at Murfree Spring.
“Ken taught me about the importance of perception, and he once orchestrated an event that drove the point home where Mayor Joe B. Jackson, Sen. Jim Sasser, Dr. Martin Harwit, the chief executive officer of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, (former U.S. Rep.) Bart Gordon along with other government and business leaders attended,” she said.
Jack Weatherford, a retired banker and former chairman of the Smyrna-Rutherford County Airport Authority, detailed how Davidson’s advice was valuable during the transition from ownership by the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority to a local entity.
Formerly known as Seward Air Force Base, Smyrna Airport is a premier facility in the state and region. Weatherford said that Davidson was instrumental in helping the local airport authority with establishing valuable contacts in Washington, D.C.
It was pointed out that Davidson spent most of his growing up years in Washington while his father, W.R. Davidson, was chief of staff to U.S. Senator Sen. Kenneth Douglas McKellar from Tennessee, for whom he was named. During those years, young Davidson saw first hand how politics works in the nation’s capital through establishing relationships.
Becci Bookner, a successful businesswoman and former director of the Murfreesboro City Schools extended school program, described how the honoree garnered national attention for the “before and after local school program” during its infancy days, which included meetings in the nation’s capitol with congressmen and senators, all arranged by Davidson.
Allen Howell and David Augustine, of Corporate Flight Management, said that Davidson’s influence helped to propel their company to the national stage through working with the National Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian.
The company donated a flight simulator to the national museum which has been seen and used by millions of young aviation enthusiasts.
“Ken showed us how to build relationships with those in power, both at home and inside the Washington Beltway,” Howell said. “He stressed the value of building up a relationship bank account so that when we had to draw on that account we could. Ken showed us how to do public relations and get media coverage on a zero budget through relationships.”
Mike Walker, a former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Army, had planned to attend the event but had to cancel at the last minute when summoned to help with investigation of the shooting incident at the Naval Shipyard.
Walker is part of what is described as “The Red Team” whose expertise was needed by authorities.
Walker told the audience by telephone how he first met Davidson when both worked in the office of 4th District U.S. Rep. Joe L. Evins. Their friendship was bonded instantly and has remained over the years.
Richard Shriver, the former director of the Methodist Church sponsored Wesley Foundation at MTSU, said that Davidson was a close friend and confidant during the 1960s in helping the organization reach out to students during the decade when many college campuses were experiencing troublesome times.
As a student himself, Davidson, proved to be a great ally to the Wesley Foundation according to Shriver.
Many out-of-state friends could not be present but sent letters of tribute.
Airline executive Chuck Howell, whose office is in Wyoming, wrote, “I don’t remember a single time that Ken didn’t accomplish what he set out to do. He is known for taking a client to the edge but not letting him go over; at least not without a parachute. With every idea from Ken, I would question him all along the way only for it to work out just as he said it would. Ken has been a great mentor and teacher, but most of all he is a friend.”
Davidson, 66, was almost speechless while thanking his friends for organizing the event in his honor.
Although limited in his physical abilities because of Parkinson’s disease, he still is a consultant on behalf of both Corporate Flight Management in Smyrna and Chappell Smith Insurance Services in Franklin.