Billy Mitchell smiled as talked about working for D&D Motors and the Davenports for almost 50 years.
Billy Mitchell carefully removes several business licenses that accumulated at the former Poinsett Street showroom.
Skip Davenport, President of D&D Motors, shuffles through the business licenses.
Skip Davenport held a retirement luncheon for Mitchell at the 79-year-old Ford dealership. D&D Motors is the only employer Mitchell has worked for since attending school in Greer.
“I can’t believe it,” Davenport said. “He has worked here as long as I have been alive and working.”
Mitchell has been part of the 50th and 75th anniversary celebrations. He was an employee at the first location, at the one-car showroom on Poinsett Street, at an expansion move to Wade Hampton Boulevard near the Buncombe Road intersection, and to its current state-of-the-art showroom and repair facility at 13645 E. Wade Hampton Blvd.
“I didn’t care for too much negative stuff,” Mitchell said. “If I did hear or see it, I wouldn’t have stayed.”
Mitchell is a self-taught man in many ways, including playing every musical instrument and being a caring and loving father and mentor.
Mitchell told how learning music came easily to him. “I would walk past a man all the time, sitting against a tree, way back in the country when I was young,” Mitchell said. “One day he asked me if I wanted to play the guitar, and I told him I didn’t know how.
“He showed me how to play a note and I would hold that up to my ear to memorize it,” Mitchell said. “One day he gave me the guitar, and I would take it everywhere. I even took it to bed and slept with it.”
Mitchell learned to play music by sound. “I just love to play,” he said. He and his family perform in church as the Mitchell Gospel Singers.
Unable to have children, Mitchell and his wife, Annie, first housed and cared for about seven nieces and nephews, given to them by the courts.
They were foster parents to a dozen children who were nurtured from their early years through high school. “I couldn’t turn them down. They needed us,” Mitchell said. “I will be walking along the street, hear a car horn, and someone will shout, ‘Hi daddy,’” Mitchell said with a laugh. “Sometimes they go by so fast I almost don’t recognize them.”
The past six months, Mitchell has shared a whirlwind of memories with Davenport.
“I have loved working for the Davenports and never wanted another job,” Mitchell said.
The Davenports embraced Mitchell as family. But there was one occasion Mitchell remembered being forgotten.
“When I was in school I was excited to come to work here at the Poinsett Street shop,” Billy said, pointing to the now vacant structure. He said he was repeatedly asked to play football and basketball but turned down coaches to work.
“I remember one day I got out of school early and was running to get to work. I was real happy because I had a job to go to. Only when I got there, the shop was closed. A fella told me they had sold the building and had moved somewhere on Wade Hampton Boulevard, but they forgot to tell me.
“It was a week later when I found them, and I was one real happy fella,” Mitchell said.
Davenport said he only learned about that story a few months back when Mitchell was sharing memories of working at D&D Motors. Until this week, Shannon Davenport Burgess, Skip’s sister, said she didn’t know that. Mitchell also cared for another brother, Mark Davenport.
“I couldn’t stop laughing when Billy told us that,” Skip said. He still enjoys telling that story, despite Mitchell’s chagrin.
Shannon was a little more concerned. “Oh, my. I never knew that. Billy is a very giving person. Everyone else came first to Billy, he would give the shirt off his back for anyone.”
One day Mitchell heard the Davenports talking about a large amount of missing inventory. They didn’t know how, when or who was taking it, but Mitchell did.
“I was treated so good by the Davenports that I felt like they were stealing from me, too. I reported it to them and helped them from losing a lot more money,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell was entrusted with the Davenport’s children, Skip and Shannon, caring for them when they were young and driving them to and from school and to all the extracurricular activities they participated in.
Davenport and Mitchell laughed at the handful Skip said Shannon was for Mitchell when he came to pick her up from elementary school, claiming she was somewhat mischievous. “She would hit that (school) door and take off running,” Mitchell said. “Shannon wanted to play. She would run to the football field with me chasing her on one side and the principal on the other.”
“I have great memories of Billy," Shannon said. "He was a member of our family as long as I can remember. He was someone who was just always there.”
Mitchell said, “I treated her like she was mine. Anything she did that hurt, like bruises she got, I hurt more than her.”
“Just think of the impact Billy has had,” Davenport said. “Billy has profound character and just not just with our store. The example he set and respect he had is from everywhere.”
“I will always remember Billy driving that big Crown Victoria of my father,”Shannon said. “He always had the window rolled down, his left arm out the window and a Christian radio station on while driving I-85, taking me to school and back. He was always present in my life growing up.”