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Wantha Lorena Davis

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Wantha Lorena Davis Wantha Lorena Davis, 95, passed away peacefully September 18, 2012 surrounded by her beloved family. Wantha is survived by her son, Dr. Tad Davis and her daughter-in law, Marina Sifuentes, both of Austin. Also surviving are her grandchildren, Sean Davis of Los Angeles and Marisa and Lia Davis of Austin. She is preceded in death by her father, Ralph Bangs and her dear mother, Emma (Hayes) Bangs. She is also preceded in death by her husband, Lendol Lee Davis, her brothers, Bud and Lloyd Bangs, and her darling sister, Bonnie Young. Wantha was born in Liberal, Kansas on January 3, 1917. A child of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, she grew up with two brothers and a sister. She developed a love of horses early in her life and went on to become the world's leading woman jockey of the 1930s, '40s, and '50s. She was a pioneer in the struggle for gender equality in the male-dominated world of horse racing. After finishing high school in 1934, Wantha's journey began when she left home and took a freight train bound for Texas. Within a day of her arrival in Texas, she found her way to a nearby racetrack where she galloped horses as an "exercise boy." She quickly earned a reputation for her gentle and intuitive nature around horses. In 1939, she married Lendol Lee Davis and they had one son, Tad. They raised Tad while traveling all over the United States, Mexico, and Canada so Wantha could race. They toured the racing circuit in their old car packed with possessions and pets, pulling a horse trailer. On account of her gender, she was refused a license to race at most of the larger tracks; however, she competed in exhibition and match races against many of the top male jockeys of her day. In 1949, crowds of spectators crossed the border from San Diego to Agua Caliente, Mexico to watch her outrace National Racing Hall of Famer Johnny Longden by a length and three-quarters in a six-furlong match race. Four months later, she won another match race against National Racing Hall of Fame jockey Jack Westrope. Wantha won over 1,000 races in her career and was featured in countless newspapers all over the country. She raced both thoroughbreds and quarter horses. In 2004, Wantha was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame for her contributions to the American West and the sport of horse racing. To learn more about Wantha's racing career, visit girljockey.com. After retiring from racing in 1957, Wantha and Lendol ran an 850-acre ranch and farm in Duncan, Oklahoma. After Lendol passed away in 1979, Wantha continued to run the ranch on her own for sixteen years until she was 78. Wantha never considered herself a city person, but in 1995, she moved to Austin to be near her son and granddaughters. She lived in a small home across from an elementary school and she loved to watch the schoolchildren play from outside her front picture window. She deeply loved her family and spoke with her granddaughter, Marisa, every single morning during Marisa's drive to work. She also enjoyed weekly Sunday lunches with her son, daughter-in-law, granddaughters, and her daughter-in-law's family. Wantha was gentle-natured and cared for all animals. She befriended the birds, lizards, squirrels, and spiders that lived around her home. Up until the time of her death, she carefully tended to her home, yard, birdfeeder, and most importantly, her devoted dog, Kate. Above all, Wantha was sweet and kind. Though sometimes quiet, she would make friends everywhere she went. She believed a person could never have too many friends and she had loving and encouraging things to say to everyone she met. She always said she was blessed to have met so many nice people during her life. Wantha saw the very best in everyone and held all relationships close to her heart. A celebration of Wantha's life will be held at Westlake United Methodist Church on Saturday, September 22 at 11am. A reception will be held following the service. She will be buried in an old family cemetery located east of Duncan, Oklahoma. In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation to Westlake United Methodist Church or the . Obituary and guestbook available online at www.wcfish.com

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Published in Austin American-Statesman on Sept. 21, 2012
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