CHARLESTON, W.Va. - After serving Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church for 27 years, the Rev. Robert Kaye Davis is retiring from the pastoral position.
But it isn't likely Davis will ever completely retire from the ministry.
He concedes he is a bit of a "workaholic." Plus, he can't imagine not spreading the gospel and reaching out to others.
"I've been blessed in my 69 years," Davis said. "I thank God for everything. God has been good to me."
Davis grew up in the coalfields of Fayette County, and his parents divorced when he was young. As his parents remarried, he became one of 10 children, counting siblings and stepsiblings.
During his youth, he moved about from Kingston to Alderson to Chesapeake and in the 1950s to Orchard Manor in Charleston, where he was known for expertise in shooting marbles. In the fall of 1960, he moved back to Alderson to help his great aunt and uncle, both strong Christian influences in his life.
"In 1962, I was the only black graduate of Alderson High School," he said.
While he felt accepted there, he recalls feeling the sting of prejudice in junior high and again in adulthood. While working as a chauffeur, he was told he could not stay at a hotel. His employer said then he would not stay there either and they would seek lodging elsewhere.
After high school, he attended West Virginia State College (now university) before leaving for Cleveland, where he trained to be a butcher. Other jobs followed, including the chauffeur position and bank messenger. In 1964, he returned to Charleston to work at Libby Owens Glass Co. but was immediately drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served as a radio teletype operator, went to jump school and was in special forces. He served 14 months in Vietnam and was discharged in 1967.
He returned to Charleston, where he worked in janitorial services at the state capitol, and then at the post office, where he held several positions including clerk, mailman, postmaster and supervisor in maintenance until he retired in 1992.
While his resume is long, he goes through it all from memory.
Davis, a longtime member of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist in South Charleston, felt called to the ministry in the early 1980s and later attended Teays Valley Baptist College. He has served as pastor of Mt. Zion since 1986 but was spreading the word of God long before that.
"I had always been quite knowledgeable about the Bible," he said. "While I was at the post office, I preached to employees, and on routes I'd tell people about Christ. It was the way God molded me."