Jamaicans In Atlanta

Influential Jamaicans in Atlanta: Rev. Dr. Barry Davies

Written by Glen Laman

The Rev. Dr. Barry Davies inherited the gift of music from his grandfather who was a church organist but his nose was kept to the wheel by his mother who was determined not to have him waste all the money she had to spend on piano and organ lessons. Now in his seventy-eight year, Rev. Davies is still putting those early music lessons to good use.

From 1955 until the late 1960’s, Barry Davies—the Reverend and Doctor titles came later—was the Concert Choir Director at Kingston College. He was hired during the tenure of none other than Bishop Percival Gibson himself. His specific task was to develop a concert choir from the nucleus of the chapel choir formed by Douglas Forrest. And during his tenure, the concert choir gave annual performances–the first Jamaican high school choir to do that–not only in Kingston but also all over the island. At the same time, the choir provided music regularly for the chapel services. The choir was also used when there were diocesan events. And it was also the first Jamaican high school choir to produce recordings for sale to the public.

Rev. Davies says “there were many wonderful, warm and satisfying times which made me so glad to be part of the KC family.” But he can still recall Wednesday mornings in St. Augustine’s chapel when the bishop would call on one usually terrified student to tell him what he had just preached about. He also remembers the choir’s first concert at the huge Carib Theater in Cross Roads: they started the concert right on time but had to stop after a few minutes because of the great line of people outside still waiting to get in–it was a sold out capacity audience!

The first chapter of Rev. Davies life took place in England where he was born in the industrial Midlands, in a very old town called Dudley, in the County of Worcestershire in 1929. He went on to obtain undergrad and graduate degrees in music and education; he also was in show business for a while.

The second chapter of his life took place in the West Indies–mostly Jamaica but also several of the Bahamian “family islands” after leaving Jamaica in 1976–where he worked as a teacher, a musician, the Concert Choir director at Kingston College, a radio and television producer and presenter, a music critic, and an administrator as the Director of the Jamaica School of Music. He says his toughest adjustment to life in the tropics was getting used to being kept awake at night by crickets, tree frogs and barking dogs. In Jamaica, he had many jobs from 1956 onwards in radio and television. The one most people remember is “Children’s Corner” which he hosted with Erica Allen.

The third chapter of Rev. Davies’ life is currently underway in the U.S. where he attended Columbia Theological Seminary, received the Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees, became music faculty member, was ordained, retired from the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta and is now the Parish Associate and Organist at the Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

When asked how he ended up in the ministry, Rev. Davies said “it had been in my blood since I first heard missionaries visiting my church when I was a young boy.” And although he had planned to go to seminary after his first degree, he lost his faith and became a “humanist agnostic” for 30 years. “Faith returned at age 50 as did my call to ministry,” he explained. And so he came to the US to attend seminary and become qualified as a Presbyterian minister.

Today, this father of four and grandfather of three is still working full-time. He and his wife, Laodice, are now in their 40th year of marriage and can often be seen at various Jamaican events in Atlanta.

On arrival in Atlanta (in 1979) Dr. Davies set up a weekly evening service for newly arriving Jamaicans who had not yet joined a church. Since then he has been in constant demand to make music for Jamaican functions, and has preached at two of the Independence services as well as at the Memorial Service following the death of former Prime Minister, Michael Manley.

His wife was born Laodice Dooley in Kingston where she attended Excelsior and worked there before being employed at the Jamaica School of Music where she was librarian and staff accompanist. She then went to do a music degree in London and earned four diplomas as a pianist, singer, teacher and performer. “You could say that music brought us together!” remarked Rev. Davies. “We had a lengthy courtship correspondence and I proposed to her in a letter. When she said ‘yes’ I went over to England where we got married and spent the first 18 months of our marriage.”

After returning to Jamaica, Laodice taught first at Excelsior, then at Alpha Academy. After moving to Nassau, The Bahamas, she taught at an elementary school where her choir won many first places in competitions. She has now been employed for approximately 24 years at DeKalb Technical College in Atlanta.

Rev. Davies offers these words of wisdom: “Try to make the most of every day of life, and if changes need to be made, make them at no matter what age. Ministry is my 6th career and the skills from my previous professions have now all come together in a very satisfying way.”

About the author

Glen Laman