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Herman Davis State Park at Manila (Mississippi County) in northeast Arkansas honors Private Herman Davis, a native of Manila who is considered one of the top heroes of World War I. The one-acre park surrounds a monument to Davis.
Davis distinguished himself with unusual feats of bravery on more than one occasion during the time he served in World War I. He was listed fourth on U.S. General John J. Pershing’s list of the100 greatest heroes of World War I and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Croix de Guerre, and the Medaille Militaire by the American and French governments. Soon after Davis died in a Memphis hospital on January 5, 1923, two campaigns were launched to raise funds for memorials at his gravesite in Manila and at the Old State House in Little Rock (Pulaski County).
The Mississippi County fund drive raised $5,000 for the monument in Manila, where the city had donated a site. The monument is an imposing twenty-five-foot-tall granite obelisk with a life-sized statue of Davis made from Italian marble resting at its base. John C. McHaney Jr. of Blytheville (Mississippi County) and Kennett, Missouri, was awarded the stonework contract, and a marble statue of Davis was ordered from artists in Carrara, Italy. The twenty-five-foot shaft of gray Barre granite arrived in November 1924, but the statue was delayed for more than a year as the artists worked on it.
The project was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 30, 1925, which Governor Thomas Jefferson Terral proclaimed as Herman Davis Memorial Day in Arkansas. Services were conducted in Blytheville and at the monument site in Manila. The soldier’s remains were moved from a nearby cemetery to the base of the new memorial.
On March 28, 1953, the city of Manila and the Department of Parks and Tourism entered into an agreement whereby the city would maintain the day-to-day upkeep of the park while the state would provide major maintenance and supervision of the memorial site, making it Arkansas’s sixth state park. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 7, 1995. The original statue, vandalized in 1967, was replaced with a duplicate using the same type of granite used in the shaft and base of the monument. In 1999, the memorial site received new landscaping, off-street parking areas, sidewalks, and park benches. It is fully accessible to all visitors.
For additional information:Arkansas State Parks–Herman Davis. http://www.arkansasstateparks.com/hermandavis/ (accessed June 4, 2014).
Staff of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
Last Updated 1/20/2016
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