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‘We Had 3 Floors on the Yacht … We Just Wanted to Celebrate [Marriage] With Friends, Family …



Special to the Birmingham Times

“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone, please send nominations to Barnett Wright bwright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.


Live: Birmingham

Married: July 21, 1973

Met: May 31, 1969, in Theresa’s front yard in Bessemer. Theresa, then 16, was outside playing catch with her brother, when her neighbor, who was Joel’s niece [the late, Phyllis Davis], introduced them. Joel was also 16.

Joel’s niece “orchestrated the whole thing,” Theresa recalled. “I was a very pretty girl, and he was a very handsome young man, and Phyllis told me she had this cute uncle that she wanted me to meet and she told him the same thing. And Joel was over at his sister’s house [his nieces’ mother] and he came into their front yard and just stood there, and when I saw him I dropped the ball and I never picked it back up,” she laughed, “I just left my brother standing there. Joel came over to where I was on my front porch and asked me if I would walk to the store with him and I immediately said ‘yes.’”

“When I first saw Theresa I thought she was the prettiest girl on earth, she was beautiful and I knew right then I wanted her to be my wife…,” Joel said. “We came back from the store and went back into her front yard and talked briefly and exchanged phone numbers. I didn’t want to stay too long because I didn’t know her mom and didn’t want to offend anyone…”

Just as Joel and Theresa were building a connection her mother moved the family to New York to be closer to other relatives. “I was so disappointed that I had to leave,” Theresa said. Two years later they moved back to the Birmingham, metro area and once they did Theresa headed for her old neighborhood to visit some friends. “I passed Joel’s sister’s house and one of his nieces yelled ‘Joel, here comes Theresa walking down the street’, and he ran out the house,” Theresa laughed, “and I saw him for the first time in two years in the same spot I met him… I never did make it to that friend’s house,” she said.

Joel said that he always knew in his heart that Theresa was coming back, and he waited. “She was even more beautiful than she was when she left. When I saw her I was startled and a little nervous and I asked her what she was doing back and she told me she was moving back and I was so happy I was smiling from ear to ear,” Joel remembered.

The two picked up where they left off. Both were now 18 years old and headed into their senior year at their respective high schools, Wenonah High School, and the now closed J.S. Abrams High School.

First date: The next day, following her return from New York at the drive-in Bama Movie Theater on Bessemer Super Highway. They saw three horror movies that they can’t recall. “He was tall, slim, and handsome, and had pretty curly hair, and pretty brown eyes,” Theresa reminisced. “He was a sharp dresser and I was back in love too!”

“I was so busy looking at her that I never saw any of the movies,” Joel laughed. “We talked and hugged up a little bit, and I saw her again the next day. We spent a lot of time together.”

“This man was so into me that he would pick me up and take me to school in the morning at Abrams [in Bessemer], and then go to his school on the other side of town [Wenonah] and do the same thing in the evening. I think there was a little bit of [possessiveness] in him,” Theresa laughed.

The turn: June 1971. For Joel, it was immediate. “The day we met again I asked her to ride with me to take my neighbor somewhere and when [the neighbor] got in the car I introduced Theresa as my girlfriend,” he said.

“And I didn’t even say anything, I just let him have his moment,” Theresa laughed. “Like he said, he knew I was going to be his wife, so he claimed me as his girlfriend right away, and we never said anything else about it.”

The proposal: January 1973, at Theresa’s mother’s house in Bessemer. Joel had come there that evening with the sole purpose of asking for Theresa’s hand in marriage. “Her mother agreed with it, I’ve always had a wonderful relationship with her mother and her whole family,” Joel said.

“And when he popped the question to my mother, she popped one right back and asked, ‘why do we want to get married so young? And, is Theresa pregnant? But I wasn’t, I didn’t want any kids that young,” Theresa said.

“I don’t remember getting down on one knee, I didn’t even have a ring to ask her to marry me, I just asked her if she would marry me and she said, ‘yes,’ and I went out the same week and looked for a wedding ring. She pretended to like it, but later on in life she told me ‘you know, Joel, I didn’t really like that ring’,” Joel laughed. “I paid $99 for that ring and that was a lot back then,” he said.

The wedding: At Bethel Baptist Church 5th Avenue, in Bessemer, officiated by Reverend E. L. Nevett. Their colors were light blue and light pink.

Most memorable for the bride was the reception. “We were young, we were only 19 and didn’t really have any money, or anyone to really help me plan the wedding or with the reception, and I tell everybody the wedding was beautiful but the reception was jacked up,” Theresa laughed. “My mother did the best she could, I think my mother cooked, but it was disorganized, and we didn’t even have tablecloths on the tables… that’s why we made up for it on our 50th anniversary this past July.”

The Davis’s celebrated their Golden Anniversary on July 21, 2023, aboard the Solaris yacht in San Destin, Florida. But not before a pre-anniversary celebration/ 70th birthday gala for Theresa at the Bessemer Civic Center in the main ballroom. Both affairs were memorable, but they were most enchanted by the official celebration in Florida.

“We had three floors on the yacht, it was beautiful. We had wonderful caterers and decorators, a band, everything. We took 65 people, we just wanted to celebrate with loved ones, friends, family, and church members. God has brought us a long way and we definitely give him all the glory,” Theresa said.

Most memorable for the groom was a moment while standing at the altar. “While the ceremony was going on my brother started laughing at one of the groomsmen because he got too hot standing by the candles and he passed out a little bit, and the bridesmaid he was standing next to had to hold him up and keep him from hitting the floor. And my brother, he was my best man, he started laughing and couldn’t stop,” Joel said.

“And because he was laughing he made us laugh, and I was like I can’t believe we’re up here laughing while the pastor is doing the prayer, and I think [the groomsman] also had a little too much to drink,” Theresa added.

They did not honeymoon following their first wedding ceremony but said they’ve made up for it over the years, and “big time” during their stay in San Destin, Florida following their Golden Anniversary celebration this past July.

Words of wisdom: “The main thing is to love one another, if you love one another, it will cover a multitude of faults,” Joel said. “Keep family, friends, and everyone out of your marriage, if you invite them in it’s going to fail. And most of all, we include the Lord in everything we do and that’s why we’re still married 50 years later.”

Theresa agreed, “We endeavored to keep everyone out of our marriage. I didn’t go to work telling people [our business], we did none of that. We kept whatever went on inside of our home. Back then, we didn’t know anything about seeking counsel, so we just dealt with it in our own way. But, in 1979, we began a deeper relationship with God and began to go to him in prayer. [And now] we do pre-marital counseling and that’s one of the things we always tell them, ‘keep everything going on inside your home, inside your home,” Theresa said.

Happily ever after: The couple pastor Liberty Faith Christian Church, in Bessemer, has three daughters, Terica Murray,  LaTonya Davis-Pruitt, and Aquilla Davis-Jackson, five grandchildren, and one late grandchild, Daisha Murray, who died of a motor vehicle accident caused by a drunk driver.

Theresa, 70, is a Bessemer native, and Abrams High School grad. She attended Lawson State Community College, and Southern Business College where she earned a certification in medical transcription. She retired from AmSouth Bank as a supervisor in the telephone banking and bill payment department after eight years and is currently church administrator at Liberty Faith Christian Church in Bessemer.

Joel, 69, is a Bessemer native, and Wenonah High School grad. He attended Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary, in Evansville, Indiana, where he earned an associate degree in Biblical Studies, a bachelor’s degree in Theology, and a master’s degree in Biblical Counseling. He retired from the Birmingham City Police Department after 20 years and has pastored his church, Liberty Faith Christian Church, in Bessemer, for the past 26 years.

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