As a young boy, Jamie Davidson remembers Eaton Rapids as a “Mayberry” type of town, when most people didn’t bother locking their doors and it was no big deal to leave their keys in the car.
Davidson and his brothers, Linton and John, grew up in the house on State Street that his parents, John and Helen Davidson, built in 1928 across the street from the Miller Farm. The farm was a working dairy back then and the cows could be seen hanging their heads out the windows of the enormous barn. There were no houses or subdivisions, only farmland, between his home and the Grand River.
His father, John G. Davidson, was the mayor of Eaton Rapids and a community leader. His grandfather was John B. Davidson, the founder of the Davidson Woolen Mills. John B. was twice elected as mayor of Eaton Rapids. He was also a state representative and a state senator. The Davidson name is synonymous with the history of Eaton Rapids in its “glory days” when the woolen industry was booming.
Davidson graduated from Eaton Rapids High School and attended Hillsdale College. He spent a year hitchhiking through Europe.
The Vietnam war was a major focal point of the 1960s. Young men were being drafted into the unpopular war. After graduating from Hillsdale, Davidson discovered that he was one of those young men; a draft notice awaited him. He was offered Officer Candidate School and commissioned in as a second lieutenant in the Army.
Davidson was an infantry platoon leader with the 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam. They were to intercept North Vietnamese army troops along the Laos/Cambodian border. Later he became the leader of an advisory team to the South Vietnamese Popular Force that conducted day patrols and night ambushes in support of the Phoenix Program, which targeted Viet Cong leaders.
Davidson wrote about his Vietnam experience as part of his master’s degree program. That assignment evolved into a novel, “Highway One: A Vietnam War Story.” It’s the story of a young Army lieutenant’s tour of duty in Vietnam, as he struggled with the bureaucracy of the American military machine and his own self-doubts about the usefulness of the American effort. The book, available on Amazon, was optioned for a movie by a Hollywood producer but has yet to be made.
After his tour of duty, Davidson returned to Eaton Rapids and married hometown girl Janet Hyatt. They have a daughter, Jessica.
Davidson taught at Starr Commonwealth in Albion. Used to being more active, he decided to transfer from the Army Reserves to the Navy. He completed a second Officers Candidate School and started a career as a Navy public affairs officer, working on the Navy’s advertising campaign with the slogan, “It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.”
But it wasn’t just a desk job for Davidson. He served in Hawaii and spent 22 months at sea with the Pacific Fleet’s Carrier Strike Force. He served in New York City as a liaison to national and international print and television media. He served as department head at the Department of Defense Information School, training journalists for the military, FBI, and other government and foreign military officials. After 20 years in the Navy, Davidson retired as a Commander.
But he wasn’t done. He began another career as a college instructor and administrator with Indiana’s community college and with Indiana University.
He returned to Eaton Rapids and his boyhood home after a 30-year absence. In 2005 he was drafted again: this time to run for mayor of Eaton Rapids. He was elected as a write-in candidate and served one term.
As mayor, he worked for cooperative planning and responsibilities with the two surrounding townships. He put emphasis on the city’s historic downtown and the riverfront. He helped the downtown area becoming part of the National Register of Historic Places. Davidson also served a nine-year term on the Board of Directors of the Eaton Rapids Medical Center.
He still can’t just sit still. The Davidsons’ interest in genealogy has led them several times to the United Kingdom researching their families. They also presented John B. Davidson’s rugby jersey and cap to the National Rugby Museum in England. They spend time visiting their daughter and granddaughters in Florida.