NASHVILLE, TN — Rick Davidson died of prostate cancer at age 68. He passed away comfortably with his family and at peace last week in Nashville. He leaves behind his devoted wife of 41 years, Izola Putnam Davidson, who was working at a competing bank in 1979 when they first met, and daughter Sandra Putnam-Broadway of Nashville, a sister and brother and host of nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.
In his early childhood days in North Nashville, Davidson had a knack for learning, earning and wanting to help. Davidson, who attended Elliott Elementary and Wharton Junior High schools, capped his graduation from Pearl High School in 1969, leaving a positive imprint at almost every step, say those who met him along the way. In 1994 Rick graduated from Liberty University.
Starting as a porter at Third National Bank downtown, Davidson quickly rose up the responsibility ladder in the banking community as he went through countless banking advancement programs and academies, catching the recruiting eyes of hiring managers near and far.
Davidson’s collection of achievements as a skilled business manager in banking and finance was highlighted by his service for five years as president and chief executive officers of the historic Citizens Savings Bank and Trust Co. (Citizens Bank) and for 15 years serving as wholesale credit manager for the United Methodist Publishing House.
“Rick was a consummate banker,” said William Collier Jr., who in the early 1970’s became one of the first Blacks to manage a downtown Nashville branch of a major historically white-owned bank—First American Bank.
Collier met and lunched with Davidson, then a “competitor,” as Collier considered him initially, at the downtown Branch of Commerce Union Bank. It did not take long for Collier and Davidson, both Pearl High alums, to become friendly competitors.
Davidson may have become known as a skilled banking and business manager, but his role as a dad overshadowed those working accolades, Collier and other peers said.
“Rick can be compared to Joe Biden (the former U.S. Senator running for President) when he lost his son,” Collier said of Davidson’s relentless efforts to help his only son, Derrick, who suffered a chronic heart ailment. Robert Derrick Davidson died in his father’s arms at age 19.
“I painfully watched him remain resilient in the face of this…,” Collier said of the months of intense care and patience Derrick and his dad endured during the illness and days waiting as a heart transplant candidate for nearly a year. “He (Rick) had done a remarkable job of caring for their son,” Collier said, referring to Davidson and his wife, Izola.
Derrick’s parents learned when he was only 10 that an annoying cough he could not shake was actually a case of cardio myopathy, a chronic respiratory disease. After repeated doctor visits, one of the pediatricians has more exploratory x-rays taken. The conclusion was, little Derrick’s heart had become overwhelmed with a respiratory infection and the only way to possibly recover was a heart transplant.
The successful transplant surgery in 1993 was performed by Former U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist, a famous heart and lung transplant surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
It was one of Frist’s last operations before heading to Washington to represent Tennessee in the U.S. Senate.
Frist echoed others in his comments on Davidson’s death.
“Rick’s love and commitment to his son was palpable, and their bond unbreakable,” Dr. Frist said in a statement after hearing of Davidson’s passing. “He was the ultimate patient advocate, caregiver and father in the months we worked together to get Derrick the very best possible care and outcome,” Frist said. “He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.”
Today, back home, Frist chairs the city’s volunteer COVID-19 Response Fund.
The Davidson family said his body was being donated to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Office of Research in honor of the hospital staff’s medical work and health care for Rick and Izola’s deceased son Derrick remembering his years of battling heart disease. The family said the hospital doctors and health care staff were vital to ensuring Derrick took his medications as needed to prolong his young life.
Davidson was active in 100 Black Men of Nashville, a volunteer civic mentoring and education advocacy group. He was active in Leadership Nashville, the non-profit non-political group that mentors future leaders. He was on the board of the Bethlehem Centers, worked with the March of Dimes, helped the Nashville Rescue Mission and served on the Vanderbilt
He as a member of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, where he served as an elder and deacon for years.
A pass through memorial service, using public health COVID-19 mitigation guidelines, is set for 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at Lewis and Smith Funeral Home on Clarksville Highway. A private service for the family immediately follows.