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Central alum Davidson to be recognized in NASCAR race

Jeff Birchfield • May 26, 2018 at 9:36 PM

Charlie Davidson was honored with the Bronze Star Medal for bravery and valor under hostile fire and combat during his career as an Air Force lieutenant colonel. The 1975 Sullivan Central graduate, who died in April 2017, will be remembered Sunday on auto racing’s biggest day.

Davidson’s name appears above the driver’s side door of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet William Byron will drive in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Davidson — a beloved faculty member at Liberty University, where Byron is a student — was the first Air Force chaplain to set foot on the soil of Baghdad on Nov. 7, 2003. 

David Hodge recently recalled some of the qualities of his high school classmate and friend, who also served on the board of directors at Bristol Raceway Ministries.

“Charlie and I were classmates at Sullivan Central, but we only became friends many years later after I heard him preach,” Hodge said. “From humble beginnings, this country boy from Northeast Tennessee became this great orator and could convey these beautiful, touching sermons from the pulpit. Due to his service in the Air Force, he literally traveled the world.”

Davidson was the first recipient of the George Rogers Champion of Freedom Award to represent the U.S. Air Force. He earned numerous awards and decorations, including the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Joint Service Outstanding Unit Award, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal.

Davidson’s ties to Liberty University were deep. Ordained by Dr. Jerry Falwell at Thomas Road Baptist Church, he was commissioned a chaplain in 1986 and served as Protestant chaplain, senior Protestant chaplain, branch chief chaplain and wing chaplain.

Davidson was the wing chaplain for the Air Force Support Operations Squadron when he encountered hostile fire and combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Byron’s car, slated to start 21st Sunday at Charlotte, is adorned with a special red, white and blue Liberty University paint scheme. The name of another Liberty alumnus, Maj. Michael Donahue, who served as an assistant professor for Liberty’s Army ROTC program from 2008-10, is across the windshield. Donahue served three tours of combat and lost his life on Sept. 16, 2014, when a Taliban suicide bomber drove a vehicle laced with explosives into a military convoy in Afghanistan.

Davidson would have been pleased with the latest honor, Hodge said.

“If you complimented him, he would brush it off and say it was the Lord’s guiding hand,” Hodge said. “He loved racing and would be humbled by this honor.”

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