Motown legend turned money man Don Davis honored by Detroit Urban League

- They are leaders in human and civil rights - and this week they will be honored at the Detroit Urban League's Distinguished Warriors event.

All week we are introducing you to those who showed dedication to strengthening our community. In this profile, a Motown musician turned money man - who leaves a lasting legacy.

It's 1960 and Motown has its first hit. "Money” featuring the guitar work of Don Davis.

"That guitar, and I know I'm a little partial - but he was riffin it," said Kiko Davis, his widow.

Don Davis made his mark in in the music business in the 1960s and 70s, working his way from musician to successful producer with hits like Johnny Taylor's "Disco Lady" and "You don't have to be a star."

Some of his music is still being sampled today.

"A few years ago he had a hit with Destiny's Child "Girl” which was a remake of The Dramatics' "Ocean of Thoughts and Dreams."

But in 1980 the Grammy Award winner surprised the music business.

"He went from excelling at the music industry and went into banking which is almost unheard of," Kiko said. "Most people are either creative or analytical. And so for him to be able to move from one genre to the next and be successful at it is just phenomenal."

Davis took over the struggling First Independence Bank - the only African-American owned bank in Michigan, saving the bank and using it to uplift those who were unable to get loans anywhere else.

"He just felt it was an important institution to help empower the community and ensure that everyone would have fair and equal access to financing," Kiko said.

He served his community through his bank and his philanthropy - until his death in June of 2014.  

Now, he is being recognized by the Detroit Urban League for his work in building a better city.

"Any of us can be a contributor or a person who helps improve the life of individuals, the conditions in our community," said N. Charles Anderson, Detroit Urban League.  "Whether you're recognized for it or not, you can make a difference and I think each or our Distinguished Warriors, Don Davis and others demonstrate that anyone can make a difference."

Davis' wife Kiko says making a difference is part of her late husband's legacy - a legacy of giving that comes from his upbringing.

"His family (is) very spiritual, very giving, very kind loving family and would give you the shirt off their back," she said. "And they instilled that in him."

Kiko says family was the cornerstone of his life and although it has been very difficult - she finds strength in keeping his mission of caring alive.

"He had an ability to care about people and pull people together and unify them," she said. "So his legacy is to continue to inspire one another, continue to support one another and bring the community together."

Don Davis' life touched so many and his legacy lives on through his wife, children, and his lasting impact that continues to inspire.

"Because when you read his story, you read what he accomplished and how humble he was," she said. "It makes you feel proud that someone like this dwelled among us and is continuing to inspire us to do the same."

The Detroit Urban League will honor Davis and four other leaders at their "Salute to Distinguished Warriors" event. Tickets are still available; CLICK HERE for the Detroit Urban League's website.


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