FLOYD COUNTY – The Kentucky General Assembly, in its 2016 session, named the bridge leading to the community of Justell, off US 23 at Betsy Layne, the Gene D. Davis Bridge to honor the long-time Floyd County educator. A dedication ceremony is planned for Thursday, July 21, at 10 a.m. at The Dome, the geodesic dome gymnasium next to Betsy Layne Elementary School. The public is encouraged to attend.
A 1955 graduate of Betsy Layne High School, Davis’s family moved to Justell in 1944 when he was seven years old. His father worked for Justice Coal Company until the tipple burned in 1937. “This bridge was built sometime in the 1930s by the coal company and the State of Kentucky,” he said. “The bridge was a railroad bridge and only became a vehicle bridge around 1940. Davis said his family didn’t have a vehicle. “I walked across that bridge from second grade through twelfth grade It was one mile from my house to the school.”
Davis started teaching English and Health at Betsy Layne High School in 1963, after attending the University of Kentucky for two years, serving in the U.S. Army, and completing his bachelor’s degree at Pikeville College. He played baseball under Coach Paul Butcher and was a member of the college golf team under Coach Joe Butcher.
After earning a master’s in Educational Administration with an emphasis on Principalship from Eastern Kentucky University in 1967, Davis served as assistant principal at Prestonsburg Elementary, principal at Harold Elementary, and assistant principal at Prestonsburg High School.
In 1970, Davis taught English at Lebanon High School, Lebanon, Ohio, for one year, returning to Eastern Kentucky as principal at Pikeville High School. He then joined Floyd County Schools again, this time as principal at both Betsy Layne High School and Betsy Layne Elementary from 1972-1975. He earned the Rank I Certification in Superintendent Administration from Eastern Kentucky University and then returned to Betsy Layne High as principal from 1986-1988.
In 1988, Davis moved to Prater Elementary, where he served as principal through 1996. He finished a 27-year career with a stint as superintendent of Floyd County Schools from 1996-1997.
Davis and his wife, Norma Jean, live at Betsy Layne. They are the parents of three sons, Brett (Virginia), Craig (Gwen), and Barry (Betty), and grandparents of four, Elizabeth Davis, Alex Davis, Olivia David, and Ally Davis.
Friends, former students, and colleagues of Gene Davis are invited to join the family on Thursday, July 21, as House Speaker Greg Stumbo and State Senator Johnny Ray Turner unveil signs for the Gene D. Davis Bridge. Highway District 12 Chief District Engineer Mary Westfall-Holbrook will emcee the event.