Since 2006, Oklahoma State University has celebrated “Nancy Randolph Davis Day” in February in celebration of her civil rights legacy, courage and accomplishments.
She became the first black student to enroll at OSU, then Oklahoma A&M College, in 1949 and in 1952 she earned her Master of Science degree from the College of Human Sciences.
Born in Sapulpa, Davis graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1944. She was born a granddaughter of slaves and was driven by her parents, Ed Napoleon and Ernestine Randolph, and her five siblings to obtain an education. She then attended Langston University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in home economics.
“I was not trying to make history,” Davis told OSU. “I merely wanted an education. After receiving my bachelor’s degree at Langston University, I wanted to attend OSU for my master’s degree since they had one of the best home economics programs in the state. I knew that God was on my side and that with hard work and perseverance, I would prevail.”
Following graduation from Langston she became a teacher at Dunjee High School in Choctaw. She continued teaching during the school year and took classes at OSU in the summers.
“OSU made a monumental decision that resounds loudly in the annals of history,” Davis told OSU. “Without the Supreme Court forcing them, OSU admitted this ambitious young black woman, granddaughter of a slave, daughter of sixth- and eighth-grade graduates, and a Sapulpa, Okla., native into these halls of education.”
At the time, integration was still illegal and state law imposed fines on university administrators and professors who taught who admitted black students or mixed classes. Davis was not allowed to sit with fellow white classmates and was often required to sit at the back of the class or even in the hallways.
With her completion of a master’s degree, Davis taught home economics and childcare at Star Spencer High School for 23 years and in 1991 she retired from public education after 43 years of service.
Davis passed away March 23, 2015, at 88. She was married to the late longtime educator, Fred C. Davis, mother of Dr. Nancy L. Davis of Oklahoma City, Calvin O. Davis, Esq., of Lubbock, Texas, and the stepmother of Freddye M. Davis of Kansas City. At the time of her death, she had two grandchildren.
In 1999, Davis was named a “Distinguished Alumna” of Oklahoma State University and, in 2001, the university named “Davis Hall,” one of its newest residence halls, after Nancy Randolph Davis. Three scholarships are offered at OSU in her name, as well. The Nancy Randolph Davis Scholarships for freshmen, continuing students and graduate students honor Davis’ efforts and commitment to education.
OSU College of Education and Human Sciences honored Davis with the ’Enhancing Human Lives Award, she was inducted into the OSU’s Greek Hall of Fame in 2012, and posthumously inducted to the OSU Hall of Fame in 2018.
In 2019 a bronze sculpture in her likeness was unveiled in the courtyard of the then-Human Sciences building.
On October 23, 2020, the Oklahoma A&M Regents approved the renaming of the Human Sciences and Human Sciences West buildings to “Nancy Randolph Davis and Nancy Randolph Davis West”.
For her contributions to Oklahoma and the rest of the nation, Davis has received recognitions, honors and awards from state governors, legislature and various community service organizations. She was appointed first Lady Member to the State Board of Nursing in 1991 by Governor David Walters and was honored by the Oklahoma Legislature in 1999 for Educational Contributions to the State of Oklahoma.
In December 2008, Davis received the Oklahoma Human Rights award. The Oklahoma Human Rights Commission honored her as an educational pioneer and human rights trailblazer.
Davis was also inducted by the NTU Art Association into the Oklahoma Afro American Hall of Fame and in 2015 into the Oklahoma African-American Educators Hall of Fame.
In 2018, a three-mile stretch of Interstate 35 west of Stillwater was named the Nancy Randolph Davis Memorial Highway.
She was an advisor to the Oklahoma City N.A.A.C.P. Youth Council, Life Member of Langston University Alumni Association, Life Member of Oklahoma State University Alumni Association, Life Member of Oklahoma State University Black Alumni Association, Golden Soror and Life Member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Member of the Urban League, YWCA, National Education Association, Oklahoma Vocational Teachers Association, Oklahoma Retired Teachers Association, Oklahoma Historical Society, Amigos Club, and Plant and Garden Club of Spencer, Oklahoma. She served as Advisory Member of Dunjee Alumni Association and Advisor to Star Spencer High School PTSA. Davis was a member of True Vine Ministries in Spencer for more than 50 years.