He thought college was for “smart” people. That’s why he says he didn’t go. But in the school of life, Jackson native Cortney Davis has a PhD. At 23. The outspoken only child who grew up in a single parent home is a renaissance man of sorts who lived a life time of experiences before his 20th birthday.
Professionally, Davis’ first gig was working for Ted Duckworth Realty for about eight months at the age of 18. But as a child of “11 or 12,” he learned the power of work when he by chance started ironing his teacher’s clothing. “My grandmother taught me how to iron when I was in first grade,” he says. Davis finished Callaway High School at 16 because he had enough credits to move on. “It was a risk because all my friends were going to college and I didn’t.” But taking risks is his modus operandi.
As a Realtor who wanted to rehab and flip houses, Davis was on the fast track for success. But it wasn’t to be. “I lost it all at 19,” he says of a failed venture. “If only I had been born sooner.” Referring to the market down turn, he says he got in at the peak and ended up sleeping in his office. “I ate food from the convenience store after my car was stolen. I’ve been humbled more times than you know.” But he says he’s glad he experienced failure. “It was great,” he admits. “You realize happiness is what’s important. You put everything in perspective.”
Davis realized material possessions aren’t top priority. “Those things are a dime a dozen,” he says. “I want to make it because I love helping people.” That’s a trait ingrained in Davis at an early age. “I used to get in trouble in middle school for giving my clothing away. I thought ‘this is crazy that they don’t have anything,’ so I shared.”
Fast forward to March 2012 and that same sharing attitude lead him to Fondren after meeting Brad Reeves and wanting to learn from his successes. “He told me he owned Brent’s and I figured I’d stop by,” Davis says. It was during Zippity Doo Dah® weekend that the diner was short handed. “I offered to wash dishes to help. One day turned to the next to every weekend to anytime I had spare time.” He says he’s bored easily and this was one way he could stay busy. Now “on the payroll,” Davis says he spends his earnings from his part time gig in Fondren. “You see me and I’m at Cups or Sneaky Beans or Swell-O-Phonic. My check is my coffee and tea money.”
And so this North Jackson native who operates a real estate management company in South Jackson has seemingly found a home in Fondren. As a self described “outsider,” Davis says Fondren rips away the labels. “This neighborhood allows me to be me. There are no judgments. No one asks who I am or what I do. People don’t care.” And that, in his mind, is all part of bringing things back to normal. “Everything is good. I’m super blessed. It feels good to be me.”