DPS vessel named after fallen state trooper
April 11, 2012 at 10:02 p.m.
Updated April 10, 2012 at 11:11 p.m.
PORT O'CONNOR - The Texas Department of Public Safety patrol vessel "Bill Davidson" skidded across Port O'Connor's Intracoastal waterway at 70 miles per hour. Widow Linda Davidson was front and center, the salty air not only drying her tears, but resurfacing memories.
It was 20 years ago Wednesday that fallen DPS Trooper Bill Davidson, an avid fisherman, was shot during a traffic stop in Jackson County. He died three days later.
But this anniversary, Trooper Davidson is back on the water - and this time, for good.
COMMISSIONING THE BOAT
"It took me back," Linda Davidson said tearfully while the choppy white-capped water slapped against the wooden pier. "We love to fish here. We loved these waters."
The "Bill Davidson" is the third of six patrol vessels being commissioned across the state by DPS this year.
The 34-foot vessel is vivid black and white and is equipped with automatic weapons, ballistic shielding and night vision capability. The vessel will be manned by a six-person crew and will patrol the Intracoastal waterway from Port O'Connor through Ingleside.
"This job is full of uncertainty, challenges and risks," said Cynthia Leon, chairwoman of the Texas Public Safety Commission. "It takes a special kind of person to put on that uniform, take that oath and fulfill the duty of our state troopers."
Sgt. David Johnson remembers little details of the night his former partner was shot point blank on the shoulder of U.S. Highway 59.
Johnson and Davidson had been partners for a little more than two years, but not at the time of the shooting. The night was a blur, but Johnson knew right away about the shooting not only because they were men of the uniform or good friends, but because they were also neighbors.
"I picked up Linda and took her to the hospital," Johnson said as if it were yesterday. "He was a hard worker. Very dedicated."
After stopping a vehicle for a broken headlight, Davidson approached the driver's side window and met Ronald Ray Howard, who pulled out a nine-millimeter handgun and shot Davidson in the neck, according to records from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Howard fled the scene and was arrested hours later with the gun.
In October 2005, the family received some closure when Howard was executed for the capital murder charge.
"I hope it helps a little. I do not know how, but I hope it helps," he told the victim's family in his last statement.
The clarity of the entire ordeal is still all too real for Linda Davidson.
"It might be 20 years later, but it doesn't feel like it," she said.
Forever a family man
Rusted, weather-beaten boats, such as the "Ava Maria," sit idle next to The Inn at Clark's as the "Bill Davidson" speeds by, splitting the water like Moses, the water foaming and glistening under the morning sun.
Everything about these waters is the same - the smell, the feel, the memories.
"While I was out there, I was thinking how much my husband would have loved to have been on the boat today," Linda Davidson said about being on the maiden voyage.
Davidson was active in the community, serving on the city council and the president of the local little league. He was also involved in the activities of his kids, Trey and Kimberley, and did some officiating at junior and high school football games.
But then there were the quiet days - the days he wasn't busy - and that's when the couple would make the drive down to Froggie's Bait Dock to go floundering and fishing.
Linda Davidson has learned to enjoy life's little wonders without her husband, though she will always wish he were right by her side. She now has four grandchildren and Port O'Connor is still as alive as the last time the two were out there together.
"There has been a lot that has happened in between," Linda Davidson said. "Bill was a wonderful officer, father and husband, and his memory will now live on forever and he will never be forgotten."