Alvis Hamilton (wife Denetrice) and Gary Davis (wife Rhonda), owners of Hamilton-Davis Funeral Home in Stamps, Arkansas, recently established the Reverend Frank Ehrman Memorial Annual Scholarship at the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana. Preference for the scholarship is given to a student in the Funeral Services program at UAHT.
“After buying the funeral home, we wanted to give recognition to those who were there when I was a child,” Alvis Hamilton said. “Reverend Ehrman was there as the embalmer and funeral director back then. He did a remarkable job of taking care of the community and us.”
Reverend Frank Albert Peter Michael Ehrman was born to the late Scott and Annie Bell Johnson Ehrman in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1925. Ehrman was the only son in his household and was raised to be a hard worker and provider for his mother. “He often laughed about being so small that he couldn’t even pick one hundred pounds of cotton and was often admonished because it was assumed he was just being lazy,” Hamilton said.
Ehrman received his early education from St. Mary’s Catholic School. He later served the United States Army as a Clerk Typist in World War II. As he told the story, he was injured in Germany and was treated like royalty there because the Germans did not know what to do with a young black soldier who had a German-Jewish name. “One reason we wanted to honor Reverend Ehrman with this scholarship is because of his service to our country in the military,” Gary Davis said. “Alvis served in the military, and I currently still serve in the military as well, so we wanted to honor him in this way.”
Upon returning from World War II because of his injuries, Ehrman attended Xavier University in New Orleans, where he desired to become a medical doctor. When he graduated, he was told that he would not be accepted into medical school because the quota for black doctors had been met for the year. So, he decided to change course a bit and apply to mortuary school. He was accepted into the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science, so he bought a ticket and hopped on a train bound for San Francisco.
After graduating from mortuary school, Ehrman decided to come back to the South, eventually receiving licensure in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. During his career, he worked for Browns Funeral Home in Pine Bluff, Jones Funeral Home in Texarkana, and a variety of other places and states along the way. However, he ended up finding a place to call home at A.O. Smith Funeral Home in Stamps, where he worked for many years. “When I was growing up, I lived at 207 W. 2nd Street, and Reverend Ehrman lived at 207 W. 1st Street,” Hamilton said. “So, I could look out of my back door and see his house. One morning I looked out of my window and saw Mr. Ehrman picking up the newspaper in his pajamas with a cup of coffee in his hand. I said to myself then, ‘I want to be like Mr. Ehrman when I grow up.’ I didn’t know what all that entailed at that point, but I later learned that he was a mortician. He took care of people and their families in their times of loss. After that, we had many conversations, and I learned a lot about his life. I did many things in my life because I watched and emulated him. He helped motivate me to get to where I am today.”
In between the countless hours he spent working at different funeral homes and mortuaries, Ehrman managed to make time to become a Blue Lodge Mason at Gate City Lodge #42, a Thirty Second and Thirty Third Degree Mason and Commander in Chief of S.T. Boyd #201 Consistory in the Valley of Washington Arkansas, and a Shriner. He was incredibly proud to have become an ordained minister and member of College Hill Missionary Baptist Church, a lifetime licensed mortician for the State of Arkansas, and a friend to many in the communities he served.
“While many saw him as only a stern and serious man, you realized he had great care and concern for the families he served if you got to know him,” Hamilton said. “Reverend Ehrman carried his school-trained baritone voice as a badge of honor, but he was honestly just a great big bundle of joy. He loved to laugh, tell stories, and eat his favorite meal: fish, coleslaw, and potatoes.” Ehrman passed away in November of 2019 at the young age of 94 years.
Alvis Hamilton and Gary Davis both attended college at UAHT. Davis took general education courses before transferring to earn a master’s degree. He still serves in the United States Army at Fort Benning, Georgia. Hamilton earned his Associate of Applied Science in Funeral Service Education at UAHT. He is a retired member of the United States Army. “We both received scholarships along our educational journey,” the two said. “Those scholarships made it easier on us to attend college without having as much financial burden. We want to make it a little easier for funeral services students to attend college. We also want to provide funeral services students at UAHT with the opportunity to get their clinical hours at our funeral home to help meet their board certification requirements and to help them gain real-world experience that you can’t get in the classroom. Our motto is ‘you only get one chance to make a final impression.’ We hope to make a great one.”