‘A modern day civil rights leader’ — Washington Teachers’ Union remembers president

The Washington Teachers’ Union is remembering its president after she died in a crash Sunday night in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Elizabeth “Liz”  Davis lived in D.C., worked as a teacher in D.C. schools for more than 40 years and served as the union’s president for eight years. She was 70.

“She was a modern day civil rights leader,” said union general vice president Jacqueline Pogue Lyons. “All she did was eat, sleep and breathe the rights of the teachers and the rights of the students in the District.”

Maryland State Police said Davis was driving southbound on Route 301 in the area of Harbour Way in Prince George’s County when she struck a car sitting at a traffic light. Both Davis and the other driver died from their injuries.

“She’s left such a legacy,” Lyons said. “All you had to do was call her, and she would be right on point to support anyone, no issue was too small for her to take her time to deal with or to try to fix.”

D.C Mayor Muriel Bowser started Monday’s press conference with a moment of silence to honor Davis.

“I have gotten to know Liz so well and am so devastated by her tragic passing,” Bowser said of the death of Davis before the meeting. “I hope that you will all keep in your thoughts and prayers the D.C. public schools family, the Washington Teachers’ Union and the labor community in the District of Columbia, who has lost a champion.”

D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson also spoke about Davis during the press conference, saying that she was a fierce advocate for education and for teachers.

“There’s definitely going to be a vacuum here,” Mendelson said.

The American Federation of Teachers also said it was shocked by the news of Davis’ passing.

“We’re stunned by this horrific tragedy,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten in a statement. “She never failed to show grace under pressure and adapt to her surroundings and she consistently worked directly with legislators, parents and students to make the D.C. public schools more just, equitable and excellent — fighting for funding, creating stability for educators and opportunity for students, and bringing the focus back to teaching and learning.”

Lyons said the news was extremely shocking to those at the union and that she’s hopeful they can live up to her legacy.

“That’s all we can do is hope that we would do what President Davis would want us to do, which is fight for our teachers and fight for our students,” Lyons said.

She added that, as a civil rights advocate, Davis lived the words of the late Rep. John Lewis.

“Liz was not afraid of ‘getting into good trouble.’ And that’s definitely what I’ll take from President Davis. I was, and I am, devastated, but I’m just grateful that I had an opportunity to work with her and to be around her,” Lyons said.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2021 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up