Denzel Davis ‘loved it’ at Stillman

A black college student poses for a photo outdoors
Mother of late student eager to return to campus for Davis Memorial Health Fair

By David Miller

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – In October 2018, Denzel Davis, then a 22-year-old Stillman College student from Montgomery, took ill in his dorm room.

Davis told his friends he’d developed chills and was tired. His friends asked if he wanted to go to the hospital, but Davis declined, citing a lack of health insurance.

a black male college student poses for a selfie
Denzel Davis

He would pass that weekend due an infection caused by viral bronchitis.

“He had scarring of the lungs and mucus that blocked his airways,” said Camelia Tyre, Davis’ mother. “It’ll always be a mystery to why he passed so quickly.

“He didn’t know how sick he was.”

Stillman College honored Davis the following year by holding a free campus health fair, with a keen focus on health screenings for chronic conditions that typically affect African-Americans, like high blood pressure and diabetes.

The Denzel Davis Memorial Health Fair had been on hiatus since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it returns March 29 on the Stillman Quad, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The health fair has the same scope as before – preventive care and critical health screenings – but with a bit larger scale.

For Tyre and other members of Davis’ family, the health fair offers a chance to revisit campus and celebrate Davis’ life, goals, and the influence he had on others. Tyre, her husband, and Davis’ three siblings will attend the health fair.

“Denzel was a very active person on campus and very involved,” Tyre said. “This health fair represents him well.”

Davis was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Epsilon Nu Chapter at Stillman. He was also a tenor section leader in the Stillman choir and hoped to be a vocal coach after graduation.

Davis was awarded a bachelor’s degree in music posthumously in May 2019, and Tyre accepted on his behalf.

A group of black choir singers pose for a photo
Davis (left rear) sang tenor in the Stillman Choir.

Tyre said Davis’ “circle” included students, faculty and staff at Stillman. Davis worked closely with Stillman President Dr. Cynthia Warrick and Dr. Joseph F. Scrivner, dean of chapel at Stillman and pastor at Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, where Davis would sing. Davis’ former classmates and Stillman alumni like Jeremiah Hatcher and Quinvarlio Kelly have “taken us in like family,” Tyre said.

“So many of [Davis’ friends] just became my friends,” she said. “Even on Facebook, they found ways to support us there.”

Shortly after Davis passed, Tyre and her cousin, Dr. Joe Lynn, Jr., a mental health clinician, started a grief support group that meets virtually on Zoom every Tuesday. Their participants are navigating various stages of loss, from those who are managing their grief through different outlets, to those who’ve internalized their grief and are seeking help for the first time.

Trye said the support group helps her manage her own grief, particularly by focusing on the “good memories” her son left, many of which were at Stillman. She said she’s excited to return to campus and reconnect with people from Davis’ circle.

“We try to remember the good works and positive things he left behind,” she said. “There’s still so many people at Stillman who knew him well, and he loved it there.”