Romay Davis is not your average convenience store shelf stacker. This 101-year-old woman has been working at the local Winn-Dixie in Alabama’s capital city for the last twenty years. As part of Black History Month, and to honor her for her service and all that she stands for, Winn-Dixie’s parent company, Southeastern Grocers, has set up a grant in her name.
The Romay Davis Belonging, Inclusion and Diversity Grant Program will fund nonprofits that fight for racial equity and social justice. The fund will also contribute to issues concerning racial disparities, health care, food insecurity and minorities.
Davis was born on October 29, 1919 in King George County, Virginia. She made her mark during World War II as part of the first all-Black Women Army Corps unit that was deployed overseas.
After the war, Davis got into the fashion industry, first as a designer and then a model in New York with a career in the industry spanning three decades. Through it all, she found time to pursue an education as she bagged a master’s degree along the way and sang in the choir in Martin Luther King’s church.
In fact, if anyone made a wrong move to attack her in the 70s, Davis would have tackled them with ease, having earned a Black Belt in Taekwondo at the time. To date, she drives herself to work every day even at her age.
Davis retired from active service in 1982 to spend time with her husband and family. A then 80-year-old Davis decided to get back to work after her husband died in 2001.
Speaking to Montgomery Advertiser, she admits staying idle is not her thing. She loves to work and likes to keep busy all the time. That is why she stayed on to work at her Winn-Dixie even amid the coronavirus pandemic. The only other time she is idle is when she is asleep or sick.
“I guess it’s medicine for me,” Davis said about why she’s still working. “I love to be busy doing something. The only time I’m not busy, I’m sick or asleep.”
The hardworking shelf stacker celebrated her 100th birthday with her Winn-Dixie family in 2019 in grand style but last year, the virus didn’t permit that kind of bash that was held for her the previous year, neither did Hurricane Zeta make the situation any better. A drive-by celebration held for her last October turned into a humongous birthday card sitting in the grocer where shoppers and friends left messages for Davis.
Sharing her thoughts about the grant, Davis ‘praised’ the concept behind it, saying it will make a huge impact in the lives of others. Growing up Black during her time was far worse than now and according to her, some of the experiences were “detrimental and painful.”
Anthony Hucker, president and CEO of Southeastern Grocers, the parent company of Winn-Dixie, spoke about the decision to honor Davis in this way, saying, “As we celebrate Ms. Romay, we are moved by her unwavering dedication and strong work ethic, which inspires others to be their best.”
The local grocer created a hashtag and a day for her, #RomayDavisDay, celebrating her in Montgomery Alabama.