Famed general reunites with Tri-Cities PE teacher

By Linda Weiford, WSU News

Rex-DavisPULLMAN, Wash. – Of the many fans who met with legendary “warrior monk” Gen. James Mattis during his visit to Washington State University this week, perhaps few stood out as much as Rex Davis of Pullman.

That’s because, from 1955 to 1960, Davis was Mattis’ grade school PE teacher in Richland, Wash.

Ex-WSU tennis coach Rex Davis, left, with his former PE student, retired Gen. James Mattis. (Photo by Robert Hubner, WSU Photo Services)

The retired four-star Marine Corps general who once led the United States’ most high profile military command was a student at Jason Lee Elementary School, where Davis had him climbing ropes, doing jumping jacks and playing kickball.

Fifty-six years later, the two were reacquainted when Davis attended a reception hosted by WSU’s Office of the Provost.

“I remember how you used to blow that whistle,” said a jocular Mattis, 65.

After teaching PE in grade school and high school, Davis, now 84, became a celebrated tennis coach at WSU until retiring in 1994.

“I’ve had many, many students over the years,” he said. “But I still remember how well (Gen. Mattis) could climb those ropes.”


Linda Weiford, WSU News, 509-335-7209, linda.weiford@wsu.edu