It is difficult to say just how long 73-year-old William “Buddy” Davis has been in the shrimping business — it’s been a part of his life since the beginning.

SNEADS FERRY | It is difficult to say just how long 73-year-old William “Buddy” Davis has been in the shrimping business — it’s been a part of his life since the beginning. 

Buddy, a lifetime Sneads Ferry resident and founder of Davis Seafood, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for commercial fishing. Theresa Mitchell, a member of the Shrimp Ball Committee who selected Buddy Davis, says the family tradition at Davis Seafood is a major reason in why Buddy was selected. 

In 1949, when Buddy was 8 years old, his grandfather moved the family to their current Sneads Ferry home and bought the small bait and tackle shop next door, which they renamed “Davis’ Place, Boats and Bait.” When it was badly damaged by a hurricane in 1972, Buddy replaced it with the new building that houses Davis Seafood today. 

The beginning of Buddy’s larger-scale fishing career began in 1968, when he had the William Michael built, a boat which he named after his first two sons. According to his third son, Joseph “Jody” Davis, the William Michael was one of the larger boats in the area at that time. Before, most fisherman did their shrimping in smaller boats in the nearby rivers. With his new boat, Buddy began shrimping in the ocean instead.

Today, Jody says Davis Seafood brings in thousands of pounds of seafood a month. Most of it goes to markets, restaurants, or individuals who stop by wanting food that was caught locally. The business is still run entirely by family, with the exception of one or two deckhands that Jody says are like family anyway. Currently, the Davis clan is made up of Buddy, his four children, their 13 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. 

Jody said staying in the family business was a natural decision. His first trip out on a shrimping boat happened when he was just four months old, and he’s been going out ever since. It’s something that the grandchildren are looking forward to as well. Jody says four of Buddy’s grandchildren are already being trained. 

Buddy said the love for fishing is in their blood. The fishing tradition goes back in his family to his great-great-grandfather. When asked what he likes to do when he’s not fishing, it’s difficult for Buddy to think of an answer.

“Everyone has their weaknesses,” said Buddy. “Boats are mine.”

This is the second year the Shrimp Ball has awarded a local fisherman with lifetime achievement award, which Mitchell says was brought about as a way to bring the focus of the Shrimp Festival back to Sneads Ferry’s heritage.

“We feel like we’re able to start bringing our community back into this,” said Mitchell. By getting his children involved, Mitchell says Buddy is solving one of the biggest problems this fishing community faces: how to continue their traditions. Mitchell says that many people from the older generation struggle to get their families to stay local. People like Buddy, she says, are tying the community back together.