Internationally renowned lecturer and Holocaust education trailblazer Ray Tilden Davies died in Tucson on July 5, 2021 at the age of 93.
“Ray Davies was a teacher who taught through his actions as well as his words. His deep commitment to advancing civil rights and struggling for social and racial justice made a profound mark. Ray is rightfully known, and should be remembered, as the founder of Holocaust education in Southern Arizona. He wrote the original curriculum, advocated for its implementation, and sustained a commitment to Holocaust education for more than half a century,” says Sol Davis, former executive director of the Jewish History Museum and Holocaust History Center.
The JHM honored Ray at its 2017 Fall Benefit, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.”
Ray’s lifelong friendships with Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, activist Rosa Parks, and other human rights leaders also bore witness to his deep commitment to human rights, justice, and equity for all.
Ray grew up on a farm in Kansas and served in the U.S Army in Japan in the early 1950s. After the army, he settled in Tucson and became a teacher at Mansfeld Junior High.
Ray first became involved in Holocaust education after one of his students, Rosie Eilat-Kahn, introduced him to her parents, Meyer and Susan Neuman, both survivors of Auschwitz. Meeting them, and learning that Rosie’s grandparents were murdered at Auschwitz, spurred Ray to become a fierce advocate for Holocaust education, which at the time did not exist in Southern Arizona.
“Ray Davies was not only my teacher but also my mentor. He taught me to fight for what I knew to be right and just using knowledge and education. In his mind words were power if used appropriately. Ray was truly a good and righteous man, a hero to so many. I will miss him dearly,” says Eilat-Kahn, past JHM Board member.
Ray was a founding member of Tucson’s Holocaust Survivors Speaker Bureau, which connected students with survivors and their stories.
A charter member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, D.C., Ray was appointed to the USHMM Educators Council and selected to represent American educators at the dedication ceremony for the museum in 1993.
He was a world traveler and spoke extensively throughout Eastern Europe on the topics of Holocaust, discrimination and genocide.
In 1990, Ray was instrumental in bringing Rosa Parks to Tucson, and they maintained close contact until she died. Mrs. Parks agreed to let the Tucson Human Relations Commission name a scholarship fund for her. Under Ray’s leadership, the Rosa Parks Scholarship Fund grew substantially as a result of community events that brought national civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King III and Morris Dees to inspire and encourage local efforts.
Ray was a longtime chair of the Tucson Human Relations Commission supporting wide-ranging public anti-discrimination education, training, and policy. In 2004, Ray was the first recipient of the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Margie Fenton Humanitarian Award.
Ray provided philanthropic support to the JHM, the University of Arizona College of Education, and the Educational Enrichment Foundation (EEF), of which he was a founder. Starting in 1999, EEF named its annual humanitarian award for him. Numerous other awards and scholarships have been named in his honor including the Ray Davies Community Services Scholarship at the City of Tucson and a scholarship at the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona.
The JHM is grateful for his leadership and support.
May his memory always be for a blessing.