The Rev. Robert O. Davis, 90, of Cape May, pastor and choir director from 1961 to 2009 of Macedonia Baptist Church there, died Saturday, Dec. 26, at Cape Regional Medical Center in Cape May Court House.
The calling to a life of ministry came early to the North Carolinian.
"He was a boy preacher, at 16, in his church in High Point," son Robert O. Jr. said.
Born in Lexington, N.C., Mr. Davis earned a bachelor's degree in psychology at what is now Virginia University of Lynchburg and a master of divinity there.
His musical ability came early, too.
He was a guest soloist with the Buffalo (N.Y.) Civic Orchestra in 1947 and with the Wings Over Jordan Choir in the late 1940s, his autobiographical notes state.
While doing his Army duty as director of the 94th Engineer Chorus, his notes report, he "won first place on the nationwide Armed Forces Hour broadcast over the MBS radio network."
His university gave him an honorary doctor of divinity degree in the 1950s, his son said, and 30 years later he received its honorary doctor of humanities degree.
The second degree was given, the autobiographical notes state, for "preserving and presenting Afro American life through music and lectures."
In 2003, his notes state, the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs named him an honorary chair of its Vocal Artist Showcase at Carnegie Hall.
When Mr. Davis went to Cape May in 1961, Lois Smith said in an interview, "my mother's house was the first house that he ate a meal in."
Smith grew into a contralto soloist in Mr. Davis' church's concert choir, which he organized and directed for 45 years.
Because of him, Smith said, "some of our members lived in Philadelphia and used to come down and sing with us."
And several times over the years, Smith said, the Macedonia choir sang at National Baptist conventions.
"He was one of the best," Smith said.
From the 1960s into the 1990s, he was a permanent substitute teacher for the Lower Township School District.
He was, among other responsibilities, a founder and the first treasurer of the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts, and a former member of the Cape May Commission on Human Rights.
Besides his son, Mr. Davis is survived by his wife of 57 years, Carolyn; son Kendall; and two grandchildren.
A visitation was set from 9 to 10:45 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, at the First Assembly of God Church, 1068 Seashore Rd., Cape May, with a funeral service there at 11 a.m. Interment with military honors was set for Cold Spring Cemetery in Cape May.
Condolences may be offered to the family at www.spilkerfuneralhome.com.