Dr. Charlie Davidson named 2016 George Rogers Champion of Freedom
For decades, Dr. Charlie Davidson, director of Liberty University’s Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program, has been on the frontlines of spiritual warfare. The retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel ministered for 20 years as a chaplain, serving his men even as they braved combat zones overseas. Davidson was the first Air Force chaplain to set foot in Baghdad during “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and, on Nov. 7, 2003, was the first Air Force chaplain from that campaign to receive the Bronze Star Medal for bravery and valor under hostile fire and combat conditions.
“I was just doing my ministry,” Davidson said. “I went where my commander told me to go … and never thought about good, bad, or ugly. I was shocked; I was honored to get such a high award.”
On Saturday, Liberty will have its own chance to honor Davidson when it presents him with the seventh George Rogers Champion of Freedom award during a patriotic halftime celebration at the last home Flames Football game, the conclusion of Liberty’s Military Emphasis Week. The award is given annually to a man or woman who served in the United States Armed Forces and went above the call of duty, displaying extraordinary heroism while serving. The award’s namesake, immortalized on a bust outside Williams Stadium, is a survivor of the Bataan Death March after being captured by Japanese forces while in the Philippines during World War II. Rogers served at Liberty from 1974-99, starting as its chief financial officer and most recently as vice president of finance and administration. He is now 97 years old. (Read more about Rogers’ story.)
Davidson was humbled to be considered for the honor, describing it as, “one of the highlights of my career at Liberty.”
“If somebody understands George Rogers, the experience he went through — mine on a scale of 1-10, his is probably a 10, mine’s probably a zero — what a man,” Davidson said. “What a soldier, who said, ‘Country first no matter what.’ … I don’t deserve to stand next to him from a military standpoint, but I am honored and proud to be even considered in his crowd.”
While others carried guns, Davidson carried a Bible. Over 6,200 came to Christ during his military service.
“What a blessed life, to be able to serve God and to serve your country at the same time. It was a fruitful ministry,” Davidson said. “This is what God called me to do. He didn’t call me to make rank, He didn’t call me to be the big cheese. He called me to be a faithful chaplain.”
Davidson never lost touch with his alma mater, Liberty, where he grew close to his mentor, the late Dr. Jerry Falwell, the university’s founder. He began his academic career at Liberty in 1978, earning a Bachelor of Arts in 1982, a Master of Divinity in 1984, and a Doctor of Ministry in 2001. Today, he serves as both the director of the doctoral program he graduated from and its endorsing agent, Liberty Baptist Fellowship.
“I love Liberty University,” Davidson said. “And that’s why I’m here. It’s a calling, not a job.”
A husband for 40 years and father of three children and six grandchildren, Davidson knows the importance of leaving a legacy behind.
“When I think about the university,” he said, “my legacy is pouring into these men and women who are called to ministry. And I see their lives change, and they tell me that, ‘You have changed my life, this university, this degree, has changed my life.’ Then, they are going out and multiplying where I could never go.”
While Davidson has hung up his military uniform (as of 2006), his fighting days are not over. Currently, he is battling cancer with treatments taking a heavy toll on his daily life. Still, he remains positive that the Lord is good and has blessed his life greatly. He continues teaching intensives (short-term courses) and overseeing the D.Min. program.
“Dr. Falwell used to say, ‘God doesn’t call us to be popular, He calls us to be faithful,’” Davidson recalled. “I think I can stand before God and He will say, ‘You were faithful.’ I think that is where the blessings came from — not the accolades and stuff, because I don’t deserve it.”