Dr. Ralph F. Davis Sr., 83, wrote fight song played at UM sports events

November 19, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Dr. Ralph Fletcher Davis Sr., a retired physician who as an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, College Park wrote its "Maryland Fight Song," died of heart failure Saturday at a hospital in Springfield, Ill. He was 83.

Dr. Davis was born at Fort Sheridan, Ill., the son of a career military officer. In 1934, he moved with his family to Baltimore when his father was assigned to Fort Holabird. He was a 1937 graduate of City College and earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry at the university in 1941.

While at College Park, Dr. Davis was drum major for the ROTC Band, played with the student band, and was a member of the Clef and Key, a campus organization that performed amateur theatricals. He was an accomplished musician, playing piano, trumpet, drums, harmonica and Sousaphone.

In his senior year, Dr. Davis wrote the fight song, and it was copyrighted that year by the University of Maryland Student Government Association:

Fight, fight, fight for Maryland,

Honor now her name again,

Push up the score, keep on fighting for more,

For Maryland, GO TERPS!

And we will fight, fight, fight for terrapins,

Keep on fighting 'till we win.

So sing out our song as we go marching along,

To Victory!

"He wrote the song on a piece of notebook paper in pencil. It was the only song he ever authored and it's a pretty short one at that," said a son, R. Fletcher Davis Jr. of Herndon, Va.

"It's written to an original tune and was probably premiered during the spring of 1941 at `All University Night,' an annual show," said Richard W. Taylor, a music major and 1972 UM graduate who interviewed Dr. Davis in 2000. "The `Maryland Fight Song' and the `Maryland Victory Song,' which became the university's major fight songs and are frequently heard at all sporting events, are likely to be around for another 100 years."

In 2001 at his 60th class reunion, Dr. Davis was honored for writing the fight song during football halftime ceremonies at Byrd Stadium.

His son said his family plans to donate the original handwritten manuscript to the university archives.

Dr. Davis earned his medical degree from the UM School of Medicine in 1945 and a master's in public health in 1950 from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.

After completing an internship and residency in radiology, he was the chief of radiology at Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., held medical positions at several Midwestern hospitals, and for 17 years was director of public health for Adams County, Ill. For the last 17 years of his career until retiring in 1989, he was chief resident physician at the Illinois State Soldiers and Sailors Home in Quincy.

A resident of Havana, Ill., Dr. Davis was also a philatelist who specialized in Civil War and Pony Express covers.

During the 1961 centennial of the Pony Express, he led a fund-raising effort that resulted in a monument being placed on the unmarked grave of its co-founder, William Russell.

"He always considered Baltimore his home and was proud that he had lived here. Whenever he came back, he loved visiting the old sights and eating at Haussner's," his son said.

Dr. Davis remained an avid Terps fan. "He'd try and find Maryland sporting events on the cable and hopefully get a chance to hear his fight song," his son said.

Dr. Davis was married for 37 years to the former Elizabeth McNaughton, a registered nurse who died in 1985.

Graveside services will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Green Mount Cemetery in Quincy.

Dr. Davis also is survived by another son, Paul W. Davis of Peoria, Ill.; a daughter, Charlotte Ann Hoverder of Kansas City, Mo.; and four grandchildren.

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