It was the fall of 1989 when the Bryan/College Station Habitat for Humanity was founded; the affiliate completed its first home in the spring of 1990. The first family to have a home built, the Gonzales Family, had generous community sponsors from throughout Bryan/College Station, including members from the First United Methodist Church. Members of the congregation came out to volunteer and build the home; among those volunteers was Jim Davis.
Prior to his involvement with the local affiliate, Jim recognized the need for decent and affordable housing in the United States. In a Spring 2013 interview for a BCS Habitat newsletter, Jim mentioned as early as 1968 his involvement in showing the community the conditions in which many of his fellow community members lived when his brother loaded up a bus of church members for a tour of the town.
Affectionately referred to as the Bryan/College Station Habitat for Humanity Historian, Jim has played an influential role in the growth of the affiliate for over 26 years, including the development of the “Weekday Crew” when the affiliate took on the ambitious task in 1999 of building its first subdivision, Miracle Place. The Weekday Crew helps the affiliate by putting together the walls and working during the week to help ensure homes are completed in a reasonable amount of time for the families. As he describes the humble beginnings as a volunteer based organization, there is a sparkle in his eye and joy in his voice.
Prior to Habitat, Jim was employed full-time as a fisheries professor by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Jim’s extensive knowledge of the local wildlife has proved invaluable to BCS Habitat, especially in the development and construction of the affiliate’s four, and soon fifth, subdivisions; using his skills from wildlife and fishery to identify trees that need to be saved for animal habitat or preservation purposes.
Although not his first career, Jim volunteered with Habitat for six years before accepting a part-time role with the affiliate. In 1998, after the encouragement of the then Bryan/College Station Habitat for Humanity Board President, Guy Pry, Jim “retired” from A&M and took on the full time role of Director of Property and Construction. Recalling he didn’t know much about construction at the time, Jim leaned heavily on contractor friends and acquaintances to help him piece together the skills needed for his new role. The affiliate is forever grateful for Jim’s willingness to step out of his box and accept the role.
At wall raisings, dedications, and the construction in between, Jim, developed relationships with the partner families and was a source of wisdom and advice for many of the young students, as well as staff coming into Habitat. Staff members would often ride with Jim on a property tour during their interviews or on their first day with the affiliate in what has become known as a “Habitour.” Jim’s smile and laughter was infectious at the constructions sites and the warehouse.
Officially retiring from the Bryan/College Station Habitat for Humanity at the end of July, Jim says he has every intention of staying involved with the affiliate. To say his daily presence at the affiliate is going to be missed is an understatement. We are forever grateful for the impact Jim has had on the local community and we wish him a happy retirement.