July 11 to become Arlene Davis Day in Pittsylvania County

Published: May. 30, 2023 at 1:16 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - A local woman is being recognized for her work in the White House.

Arlene Davis was born in Halifax County on a tobacco farm and was one of the oldest of 10 siblings.

“Her father passed away when the youngest child was still a baby,” said Evelyne Potter, Arlene Davis’s daughter. “So, that meant that the oldest siblings had to come out of school to help take care of the family financially.”

Davis dropped out of school in eighth grade and began house-sitting.

“After she cleaned houses for a while, one day her cousin said, ‘well, why don’t you come to DC with me?’ My mother thought that was a good idea, but it was one dilemma. That was me. I knew my mother wanted better for herself and for me, so I said, ‘it’s okay if you go. I’ll be okay,” added Potter.

Davis eventually made her way to the White House, cleaning for presidents including Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Her starting pay was $1.25 an hour. She did so well that she became a leader of 39 employees and worked for seven presidents from 1967 to 1994.

“She loved working at the White House because she met so many different people there. She said with each administration they had their own different attitudes and their own way of doing things. She was also impressed with the First Ladies there,” said Potter.

“Yeah, I loved it,” said Arlene Davis. “We had a good time up there.”

Potter visited her mom at the White House every summer.

”With me coming up, she told me, ‘I don’t want you to have to work hard like I did.’ She said, ‘I want you to go to school, and I want you to go to college so you can get a good job.’ So, she inspired me to be a hard worker and to do what you had to do at your job,” said Potter.

Davis’s eighth grade education was enough to become a leader. Her daughter hopes this shows young Black women the possibilities of an even higher education.

“She was saying that if she had an education, look how far she could have gone. So, that should inspire the kids to just go on and get their education so they can go further. Her saying now is ‘I went from the tobacco field to the White House,’ and I say, ‘you sure did, Mom. I’m so proud of you,’” explained Potter.

Davis moved to Hurt after she retired in 1994 and has lived there ever since. Now, the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors will dedicate her birthday, July 11, as Arlene Davis Day at its June 20 meeting.