By TALIA WIENER
wiener@montclairlocal.news

Dr. Alfred Davis was a kind man, a community leader, a talented chiropractor and a mentor to business owners in Montclair’s South End, those who’d known him for decades said this week.

Davis, who served on the Montclair Board of Education since 2019, died Dec. 2 at the age of 65.

“We lost a dear friend, a consummate and astute professional and a champion for public education,” board President Latifah Jannah and schools Superintendent Jonathan Ponds wrote in a joint message the day of Davis’ death. “He was a gentle, thoughtful man and highly respected by the community and his fellow board members.”

Davis’ funeral will be Dec. 17 at Christ Church, 140 Green Pond Road, Rockaway. The viewing will begin at 10 a.m., and the service at 11 a.m.

In 1981, Davis opened Davis Integrated Medicine in Montclair’s South End, and served as director ever since.

Fourth Ward Councilman David Cummings said he met Davis when he opened Davis Integrated Medicine. He was an inspiration to other business owners, and when he opened the office’s second location, he improved the look of the area and added to its vibrancy, Cummings said.

“His sincerity always stood out to me,” Cummings told Montclair Local. “He was a man of principle, and he took great pride in being a business owner in the South End.”

But Davis' impact stretched far beyond his own business, Cummings said. He was “an avid supporter” of the Fourth Ward and was eager to help the community, he said.

“He was always on me about healthy eating and taking care of my body,” he said. “He just had an exceptional ability to look, listen and learn, before he made a statement. When he did speak, you knew his point came from a place of high intellect. He was not one to have a knee-jerk reaction.”

Cummings also got to know Davis through the doctor’s son, who is friends with Cummings’ daughter.

“I got to see the best of him through his son,” he said. “As a parent, you always want to make sure your children are respectful and good people. The times I’ve been around his son, you can tell he came from a household where manners and respect and pride were instilled in him. I have such empathy for his son because he lost a dad.”

With the loss of Davis, Montclair has lost a community advocate, a father and an inspiration, Cummings said.

“You can’t replace Al Davis, his impact went beyond his volunteer work and successful business,” he said. “He inspired many by the way he lived.”

Zina Phillips, owner of Cafe Moso and president of the South End Business District, said she was at a loss for words after hearing news of Davis’ death.

“His character, humility, comforting smile and kindness were all infectious,” she said. “He taught and led by example. When I first became the representative for our business district he and I would speak frequently, and his guidance in understanding our community and the history of the South End was invaluable.” 

Phillips said his legacy would continue for years to come. She expressed her gratitude to his memory.

“We thank you for all you have done over the past 30-plus years,” she said. “This community will certainly feel a void without you. You will be missed but never forgotten.”

Jannah and Ponds, in their message, noted Davis had been a founding member of the Montclair African-American Heritage Foundation and participant in its annual parade and festival, as well as being the board’s liaison for the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast.

Davis was also an adjunct professor at his alma mater, Bloomfield College, according to his LinkedIn profile. He also served on Montclair’s Civil Rights Commission, school board Vice President Priscilla Church told Montclair Local.

“His character was beyond reproach, and everything he did during his service to our schools was for the betterment of our students,” the message from Jannah and Ponds said. “Dr. Davis provided insight and wisdom until the end, and he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and condolences are with his family at this difficult time.”

Jannah told Montclair Local her memories of Davis “center on his quiet strength and integrity.”

“The well-being of Montclair was important to him, and was reflected in his work on the board, in his practice, and as the face, for so many years, of the Montclair African-American Heritage Day Parade,” Jannah told Montclair Local. 

“But what I remember best is his smile. It was genuine, and beautiful, bringing light into our conversations,” she said. “I was glad he was able to share that smile when he presented his son with his Montclair High School diploma, this past June.”

Church said Davis “worked tirelessly his whole life to use his energy for the purpose of serving others.”

“I first met him when we sat on the state Board of Chiropractic Examiners, over 30 years ago,” she said. “He was one of the first members of this newly formed state licensing board and served it wisely to fulfill its mandate of regulating the chiropractic profession.”

Church said they became friends through their associations on boards.

“I will remember him for his calm attention to important matters and his concise wisdom, which helped others to focus on what was important,” she said. “His smile when he walked into a room and greeted those of us who were present was warm and revealed the inner good in his soul. He was a wonderful father and a great man to know.”

Roger Terry, president of the Montclair chapter of the NAACP, said Davis had been a lifelong member of the organization — and always a help to it. He called him a “pillar” — someone who provided valued advice to other business owners in the South End, and who provided expert chiropractic care to people throughout town.

And “he was just always smiling,” Terry said.

“He had a great, upbeat attitude. He always had a hand to reach out,” he said. “Whatever you asked him to do, he was ready to help. It didn’t surprise me that he was put on the (school) board.”

Eric Scherzer, who joined the school board this year, said Davis had been a steadying influence — always kind and welcoming, with a pleasant word for everyone."

"I will remember the glow on his face at June’s high school graduation ceremony when he presented his son with his diploma. May his memory be for a blessing," Scherzer said.

In the LinkedIn profile, Davis said his goal in life was to “help as many people as possible become healthy and well through natural methods.”

He received his doctorate from New York Chiropractic College. He underwent 400 hours of sports injuries training and was a diplomate of both the American Chiropractic Board of Sports Physicians and the American Academy of Pain Management. He served on the medical staff at Montclair Community Hospital and Meadowlands Hospital Center.

He was a member of the American Chiropractic Association Council on Sports Injuries and Roentgenology, and was a past president of the American Black Chiropractic Association, as well as a recipient of its Chiropractor of the Year award. He was a member of the Montclair Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey State Board of Chiropractic Examiners and the Council on Chiropractic Education.

Essex County Commissioner Brendan Gill, a Montclair resident, said he’d been proud to call Davis a friend.

“Through his personable nature and tireless work ethic, he was highly respected by so many people throughout Montclair and beyond,” Gill said. “In his capacity as a well-known chiropractor, a member of the Montclair Board of Education and a founding member of the Montclair African-American Heritage Foundation, he was always at the forefront of service with respect to our children and the entire Montclair community. Dr. Davis will be missed dearly.”

AAPI Montclair, which advocates for and provides resources for the township’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community, said in an emailed statement that Davis’ “legacy of leadership, public service and care for all of Montclair’s children will be a light and inspiration for many years to come.”

Councilman Bob Russo, a former mayor, said he, like Church, had known Davis for 30 years — and “he took care of all my aches and pains with his skillful hands.”

Davis was the first Black person to chair the state licensing board, appointed by then-Gov. Jim Florio, when Russo was working for the state Department of Law and Public Safety’s Consumer Affairs Division.

“He was always advising me and supporting me through my many years on the council and as mayor,” Russo said. “I will miss him dearly for his volunteer service to Montclair through the MLK scholarship fund breakfasts and the Board of Education, as well as his years chairing the New Jersey state Board of Chiropractic [Examiners]. Dr. Al Davis is irreplaceable.”