Chapel Hill: Obituaries

Nelda Sloan Davies

Nelda Sloan Davies, manager and agent for a number of notable performing artists and groups died on February 18, 2014 at her home in Chapel Hill, NC. She was 85. The cause was emphysema.

A lover of eclectic art throughout her life, Nelda enjoyed attending charitable art auctions and collecting works she found merited highly for bold vision and creativity. Visitors to her home would find themselves treated to items ranging from an 18th century suit of armor, to a 15-foot-high palm tree made of colored fabric, surrounded by a variety of original prints and paintings. When asked about the bright bronze sculpture in front of her house of a lightning bolt striking geometric shapes, her response was: “The front of the house needed a touch of whimsy.”

Born in Palmerton, PA, Nelda excelled in school and was editor of her high school newspaper fostering a lifelong interest in print journalism. While attending Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH, she leveraged the schools’ co-op program and worked as a copy boy for the Philadelphia Record and later was hired by the New York Times. While working for the Times she transferred to Times Facsimile Corporation, a subsidiary developing early technology to improve the transmission of news text across telephone lines. Her work involved Union negotiations and mediation with the New York Times management including face to face meetings with Arthur Hays Sulzberger. Her efforts yielded improved working conditions for women in a predominantly male workplace during the mid-1950s.

While raising a family of four children in Montclair, NJ, Nelda was an avid worker in local politics and The League of Women Voters. She also worked in the early 1970s on collecting voting statistics by demographics; an effort contracted by NBC Election News to forecast early election results based on key precincts. These techniques later became standard practice for the major network news companies.

In 1976 Nelda moved to Chapel Hill, NC and began managing artists and groups such as the Touch Mime Trio and the Big Zucchini Washboard Bandits. Under the name Southern Artists, her list of clients grew as did her reputation among local arts societies and communities across the Mid-Atlantic region in providing interesting and educational talent for schools and festivals. She retired in 1994. In Chapel Hill, Nelda came to take great civic pride in the UNC basketball program and followed their games and players closely and with her characteristic verve.

Nelda also held a lifelong passion for solving New York Times crossword puzzles each morning with a strong cup of coffee and a good pen. “The coffee helps, but it’s more important to find ways to keep your brain active,” she would say.

Nelda was married to David L. Davies of Fort Pierce, FL, and is survived by Daniel Davies of Tucson, AZ, Dee Davies Lamay of West Kingston, RI , Bruce Davies in North Potomac, MD, and Timothy Davies of Atlanta, GA, along with nine grandchildren. A memorial Service celebrating Nelda’s life is planned for 11 a.m., Saturday, May 3, 2014 at the Eno River Unitarian Fellowship, 4907 Garrett Road, Durham, NC 27707, (919) 489-2527. As a champion for art and artists, Nelda wished that donations be made in her name to local art charities and also to the UNC Hospice program, (919) 542-5545.