Christmas Comes Early: The Story of Davis Carr, the Santa of Wallace, NC

by Rebecca J. Whitman (originally published in The Duplin Times)

“If you saw him on the street and didn’t already know better, Davis Carr was the kind of man who made you think, ‘he’d make a great Santa Clause”, long-term former mayor, Charley Farrior said. With a round face, jolly personality, and a full white beard that he wore year-round, Manley Davis Carr looked the part. He didn’t have to act; he was kind, gentle, and generous in his everyday regular life. “He was a wonderful Santa. He loved children, and he was good at handling all kinds of them–from the ones that knew and loved Santa to the ones meeting him for the first time and a little scared of him,” Farrior said. Davis welcomed the celebrity role that his appearance played with children. When they stared at him in restaurants, Davis welcomed them to come sit and talk briefly. When they awed at him in church, Davis always had something to give them–even just a stick of gum. “I don’t know how he did it,” Georgia Farrior remembered, “but he always knew the kids’ names and what they had been up to.” There was just something magical about Davis.

Davis walking with some of the Farrior grandchildren

Manley Davis Carr–known as Davis or Santa or Papa D to locals–was a land surveyor by trade and a successful businessman. He knew the land in intimate detail from who owned it down to what it was good for. Many times this depth of knowledge was put to the test in town meetings as Mr. Carr was called on to give an opinion of land in consideration for different projects. “Even though he didn’t live here anymore,” Former Mayor Farrior remembered, “he came religiously to Wallace town board meetings. We could always count on him to be there and be helpful whenever we needed him.”

Santa sits and rests at a park event

The generosity of Davis’s character spilled over into everything he did. He appeared as Santa at countless events and photo ops–many times with his wife, Brenda, as Mrs. Claus. “There wasn’t a single time that I asked him to assist with a fundraiser for The Friends of the Wallace Parks that he didn’t help us- even in the early days when we couldn’t compensate him for his time. He was always there for class parties, special events for The Depot Commission, and simple one-on-one visits with children as they inevitably spotted him around town,” Georgia Farrior said. He also served in Wallace’s town government. For many years, he was President of the Wallace Chamber of Commerce. In 2016, he retired from being the Chamber President and became Chairman of the Wallace Depot Committee. During his time in that role, several museum fre wwds a we 3 31st 1 wrestling p Ieatures were established including a hobo display in a railroad boxcar and a learning center in the depot. Davis was also an integral part of the Carolina Strawberry Festival. Several have touted Carr’s commitment to serve Wallace in any way possible–but he did not even live there. He lived in Wilmington and commuted because it meant so much to him.

Wallace may have held a special place in his heart because of his family. Davis was born and raised in Teachey. He was a Wallace-Rose Hill graduate with long-term farming and merchant ties to the area–his grandfather owned one of the largest grocery stores between Wilmington and Goldsboro. Grandpa Willie had a large family, and many of them stayed in the Wallace area to live and work–including Davis’ parents, Manley Alexander and Alice Jones Carr. Davis had a servant’s heart from a very young age. He was active in Boy Scouts of America, became an Eagle Scout, and continued to serve as a Scout Master later in life. As a boy, he was honored with the Carnegie Heroism Award for saving a young man from drowning. Following this early exposure to heroic life, Davis Carr attended UNC Wilmington and then joined the United States Army.

Hard work and dedication were part of Davis’ lifestyle, and they brought him success in his profession. Following his military service, Davis began working for Robert H. Goslee and Associates Land Surveyors. He worked hard to obtain both his Professional Land Surveyor License and his NC General Contractor License. In 1998, he got the opportunity to buy the company and return to his hometown with a Wallace office site. For decades, Davis served as the treasurer of the Southeastern Chapter of the NC Society of Surveyors, and he was named their Surveyor of the Year in 2012. Christian faith was an important part of Davis’ life and upbringing. His family became members of the Rockfish Presbyterian Church–one of the oldest churches in the area–and were buried there. Davis himself was a member of Northside Church in Wilmington, and he served there faithfully as a deacon, Sunday School teacher, and youth leader. When it came time to welcome eternity, services for Davis were held at Northside, but Davis was laid to rest with his family in Rockfish. It seems fitting that such a classic, family-oriented man was laid to rest in a historic location with family.

It is hard to imagine the world without Davis in it. Many have lamented the fact that no one else can quite be Santa in Wallace as Davis was, but he was so much more than Santa for this town; he was a light. His light still shines even to those who never knew him. Isn’t that the example of exactly how life should be lived–making an impact for good in our communities?

Davis was my friend, my inspiration, and a dedicated leader in our community. He leaves behind shoes that could never be filled, but also a desire in his board members to continue his work.

Georgia Farrior

Davis Carr will be remembered through multiple generations of lives in eastern NC. The ripple effect of his love and care will continue to shine his light long after the flame was extinguished.