Rodney O. Davis
1932 - 2019
Hinchliff-Pearson-West, Galesburg
1070 West Fremont Street
Galesburg, IL
GALESBURG - Rodney O. Davis, Szold Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of History at Knox College of Galesburg, died on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. He was 87 years old.

He was born July 14, 1932, in Newton, Kansas, the son of Harry W. and M. Antoinette (Dey) Davis. He married Norma G. Glass on Aug. 7, 1954, in Fredonia, Kansas.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Norma G. Davis of Galesburg; three daughters, Anne C. (Timothy Leahy) Davis of Port Washington, Wisconsin, Margaret E. (Kristoph Klover) Davis of Oakland, California, and Jane E. Davis (Nicholas Reitter, partner) of Jackson Heights, New York; two grandchildren, Elizabeth (Spencer) Madsen and Peter (Kirsten) Leahy; and two great-granddaughters.

He was preceded in death by his parents.

Rodney was raised and educated in Newton and Wichita, Kansas, graduating from North High School in Wichita in 1950. He continued his education at the Municipal University of Wichita for one year before transferring to the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in journalism in 1954 and a master's degree in history in 1959. He received his Ph.D in history from the University of Iowa in 1966. Rodney served in the U.S. Air Force from 1954 until 1957, being honorably discharged as a first lieutenant. He served in the U.S. Air Force Reserves until 1969, being honorably discharged as a captain. In 1963 Rodney moved his family to Galesburg to teach at Knox College, where he was a professor in the history department for 34 years specializing in American history. He retired in 1997.

While at Knox, Rodney developed a groundbreaking program in American Studies that brought together faculty from disciplines across the college including the humanities, sciences and social sciences. Revered as a teacher by students and faculty alike, he always had a keen academic interest in the places where he lived and their relationship to larger national and world developments. After retiring from teaching, Rodney served with Douglas L. Wilson as co-director of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox. Rodney and Douglas Wilson collaborated on a series of books regarding Abraham Lincoln published by the University of Illinois Press. Rodney's passion for history stretched beyond Knox College and into his personal life. He was a member of the Organization of American Historians, the Illinois State Historical Society and the Abraham Lincoln Association. He oversaw the year-long activities surrounding Knox College's sesquicentennial celebrations in 1987, served as vice-chairperson of the Galesburg City Sesquicentennial Commission from 1985 through 1987, and was a charter board member of the Galesburg Landmark Commission.

Cremation will be accorded. Burial will take place in Hope Cemetery. A celebration of life will be held at a later date. Memorials may be donated to the Knox College in memory of Rodney Davis or to the Illinois State Historical Society. Final arrangements are being handled by Hinchliff-Pearson-West Funeral Directors and Cremation Services Galesburg Chapel.
Published by The Register-Mail on Nov. 7, 2019.
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Funeral services provided by:
Hinchliff-Pearson-West, Galesburg
Sponsored by Hinchliff-Pearson-West, Galesburg.
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9 Entries
With grace and reverence you served all of those you met. You always recognized what was best in each of us and allowed us to know that.

Thanks for your service our nation. Rest in Peace
Ronald Weingart
November 20, 2019
Rest Rodney, until you hear at dawn,
the low, clear reveille of God.

Thank you for your service to this nation.
Harry Simpson
November 9, 2019
Professor Davis was my advisor at Knox College. He was unfailingly kind, patient, and helped me to feel at home right away. I am so grateful for his guidance. His scholarship was far reaching, and will continue to be an unparalleled legacy. My condolences to his family and friends.
Heather McCammond-Watts
November 8, 2019
Professor Davis was my mentor and a teacher I adored. He nurtured my love of history and gave me the opportunity to do major research through an honors project. My condolences to his family--please know he made a big difference in my life, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have known him.
Jeanne Petit
November 7, 2019
An incredible mind, gift and presence who enabled you to relive history. A member of the Mt. Olympus triumvirate with Mikiso Hane and Stephen Bailey. A giant and gentlemen above all else.
Harry J. Andersen
Harry J Andersen
November 7, 2019
Professor Davis was my mentor and my friend as well as my advisor all four years at Knox. He always had the door open and would sit and discuss history with me in the high ceiling, cavernous office that was always stacked with books. I knew he had recently been suffering from the ravages of old age but I was hoping to make it back to Galesburg one more time to see him. I will never forget his lectures, his laugh, and the way he would sit back in his chair, tent his fingers, and look off into the air as he talked and reminisced. The world and Knox will be that much less with his parting. American Studies Knox Graduate of 1998.
Michael Vanlandingham
November 7, 2019
What an exceptional individual. Sitting down with Rodney and having him speak to you privately on the life of Lincoln was a truly special moment. You had a sense of awe given Prof Davis knowledge of Lincoln and the Lincoln-era.

Rodney is and shall always be a testimony to a life well lived. And loved by so many.


Xavier E. Romano
November 7, 2019
Professor Davis was a legend at Knox, and I am so grateful to have been one of his students. He will be sadly missed by many who were privileged to have known him. May his family find comfort knowing many mourn with them.
Deborah Stoneking-Watson
November 7, 2019
Dearest Uncle Rodney is missed by many. I was blessed to have such a kind man and wise Uncle in my life. Sending fond memories and comforting hugs from Kansas.
Kathy Thompson
November 5, 2019
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