Hazard Kentucky and Perry County: A Photo History
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reprinted from...
The Hazard Herald, 1957

Lawrence O. Davis Has Contributed His Money and Time to Development, Betterment of Hazard, Perry County

by C. H. Combs
Town Drifts Along

The town that was name to honor the good admiral drifted along with different degrees of prosperity, poverty, and hardships following the stock market crash of 1929 and during WWII. The Hazard Chamber of Commerce came up with every scheme known to its members to revive interest in the future, but it took years of struggle for business houses to again return to prosperity.

Immediately after the bombing Pearl Harbor of Dec. 7, 1941, one of Hazard's native sons took matters into his own hands and went all-out to organize a defense council that would co-operate with the war effort. Lawrence O. Davis proved to be the spark needed to pump new life into the city and county.

Mr. Davis had grown up on the streets of Hazard and with shrewd business ability and foresight had become a successful businessman in the community.

Calling a select committee of business and professional men together he set up one of the first, if not the first, Civil Defense Councils in Kentucky, and had scrap drives organized each week, with all stores closing on Wednesday afternoons. During the duration of World War II Perry County never missed filling or going far above any quota set for gathering scrap metal or the purchase of bonds. Mr. Davis and his committee left nothing undone to meet these quotas.

Loses Only Son

Sandwiched in between his work with the defense council and other duties, Mr. Davis found time to spend his winters in Miami, where he engaged in promotion of a subdivision and the building of many homes. He had traveled over a good portion of the world by the time he was 30 years of age, studying the habits and practices of the people of many nations. In all his travels, however, he had only one thing in mind and that was to bring his ideas back to Hazard where he could put them into use to improve conditions in his home town.

Mr. Davis had purchased a rough tract of hillside land inside the city, consisting of more than four acres that had been unnoticed since Hazard was located here. He had in mind building a modern home for his son, Bobby, who was in the service. Tragedy struck, however, in the midst of all his planning, when news reached him in July, 1945, that his son had died in a train wreck in Germany. The bottom literally dropped out of years of planning by the man who had spent years looking forward to the time his son would return home.

After months spent in deepest grief for his son, Mr. Davis, true to his love for his place of birth, came up with a new idea for the four-acre plot of hillside land he had purchased for a home. He gathered some of his closest friends together and announced that planned to build a memorial library and swimming pool in honor of his son, Bobby.

Being a master at landscaping and calling on the best architects available, Mr. Davis built the library that overlooks Davis Street above Hazard in one of the loveliest spots in Kentucky. The original plan to have 20,000 volumes of the best books available to readers of the city and county has been completed.

After months spent in deepest grief for his son, Mr. Davis... came up with a new idea for the four-acre plot of hillside land he had purchased for a home.
Mr. Davis has put more than a quarter-million dollars of his own money into the development of the Bobby Davis Memorial Park, with a swimming pool and picnic grounds that is in use everyday of the summer season.

The part of the plan that is closest to the heart of Mr. Davis and all Perry Countians is the sunken spot near the library where a crystal-clear pool, 10 by 20 feet, is surrounded by four walls of native stone. Into these walls on bronze plates are 188 names of sons of Perry County who gave their lives in World War II, including the son of Mr. Davis. Each plate shows the country in which the boy died and underneath each plate is a native azalea plant that always blooms on Memorial Day in May. A Plaque standing at the park entrance reads simply: "May time never erase the memory of these Perry County boys who made the supreme sacrifice in World War II".

Mr. Davis built a home for himself and Mrs. Davis on a spot overlooking the swimming pool, where he lives during his summer stay in Hazard.

Other Projects Sponsored

After completion of the park, Mr. Davis started planning for a long-range program that would make Hazard the trading center of eastern Kentucky where a quarter million people in a 15 county area surrounded the city. Hazard is the largest city in the area. Future tourist attractions are in the program that Mr. Davis worked up. He made a survey and started advertising that 40 million people live within a 8 hour drive of Hazard, and his Miami experience convinced him that tourist trade is the outstanding asset of a city located in the midst of natural beauty such as surrounds Hazard.

Mr. Davis returned form Miami about 1949 to find city officials of Hazard and Jaycees bogged down in a program that would put the city under a bonded debt of something like a million dollars to build a field house. Investigating the project fully, Mr. Davis set out to find ways and means of building a gymnasium without the bonded debt. Locating a site almost under the doorsteps of the high school's back door that had entirely overlooked by everyone else, Mr. Davis went to work to secure the land and lay plans for a gymnasium. Before this summer was over the foundation was completed and Memorial Gymnasium was on its way without a penny cost to taxpayers. Soliciting donations from interested persons of the community, Mr. Davis took it on himself to oversee the work and save the cost of a contractor.

This project was completed when the Hazard Memorial Gymnasium was opened and dedicated in September 1951, with as seating capacity of some 4,000 and a debt of less than $75,000 remaining. The building is worth more than $300,000 and is paying itself out of debt, aside from being the scene of basketball tournaments and other meetings that accommodate a large section of Eastern Kentucky.

Mr. Davis revamped the old Chamber of Commerce in 1953 and gave it a new name -- The Perry County Development Association -- and went to work to make over store fronts on main streets in Hazard. Within a year Main Street had a new face and Mr. Davis had planned to relieve another condition that plagued business who made calls to the city. Hotel accommodations were insufficient to take care of visitors to the city and Mr. Davis headed and organization, under the sponsorship of the PCDA that started a new 34-unit motel in the city. Selecting a dumping ground at the end of Woodland Park Bridge, Mr. Davis spent the summer overseeing the building of the Town House Motel that is one of the showplaces of the city now, overlooking the Kentucky River.