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Walter “Buddy” Davis was born in Beaumont, Texas. Although both of his legs and his right arm were paralyzed from polio when he was a child, he eventually recovered and became a great athlete.
By the time he entered Nederland High School in 1944, Davis was ready to start his phenomenal high-jumping and basketball career. A six-footer as a freshman, he lettered as a forward in basketball. As a sophomore, he had gained 20 pounds and three inches. Standing 6’7” as a junior, he was the team’s starting center. When he was a senior, he was a giant at 6’8” and 200, and he tallied more than 60% of his team’s points, getting 648 in 21 games. Davis was three-time All-District and was team captain his last two years. Davis also began his track career at Nederland High School. During his junior year he won the high jump at the district track meet with a leap of 5’8”, without the benefit of any previous practice. He then tied for the regional title with a leap of 5’11”. As a senior he won the district with a six-foot leap. He won the regional with a jump of 6’1 ½”. He passed up the state track meet to play baseball on a team that won the district title.
Davis enrolled at Texas A&M in 1948. In track his freshman year, after changing his jumping form from the “scissor” to a “straddle” form, he cleared 6’4”. Davis continued to change his form, and as a sophomore he jumped 6’5”. He cleared 6’9” to win the Texas Relays as a junior. He tied for second at the NCAA meet with a leap of 6’6 ½”. As a senior he set a Texas Relays record by clearing 6’9”, tied for the NCAA title at 6’8” and set a new AAU mark at 6’10 ½”. He also won the SWC title. Davis then won the gold medal in the Olympics at Helsinki with a record setting leap of 6 feet, 8.32 inches.
The tallest man who ever participated in athletics at Texas A&M at that time, Davis entered the college on a basketball scholarship. He led the freshman basketball team on scoring with 162 points in 12 games. In his first varsity season, he scored 237 points. He also led the nation in fouls, collecting 101 in 24 games. He scored 352 points his junior year and 363 in his senior season. Davis twice made all-SWC and all-District Six, and in 1951, after his junior season, he was named to the third-team All-America squad by the Helms Athletic Foundation.
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