A champion and advocate for the optometry profession and higher education in Texas, Dr. Armistead’s efforts on behalf of the College of Optometry spanned several decades, dating back to when the college was established in 1952. The optometry building was completed during his tenure as a UH System Regent and was named the J. Davis Armistead Building in 1993 in honor and recognition of his tireless and enduring efforts benefiting the college, the University and the profession.
Armistead’s life encompassed broad and significant accomplishments to the country, the optometric profession, the community and higher education. Amid all this service, he established a successful optometry practice in Lubbock in 1948 until his retirement in 1991. Armistead is known as the “image maker” of Buddy Holly for the dark-rimmed glasses he prescribed and prepared for Holly, who was his patient from junior high up until the time of the rock star’s death in 1959.
Among his many career accomplishments, Armistead was involved in and received a number of awards from both the American Optometric Association (AOA) and the Texas Optometric Association (TOA), including the TOA’s highest honor, the “Distinguished Service Award.” A firm believer in the importance of giving back, Armistead served a variety of civic, professional, service and business organizations, including membership in the prestigious National Academy of Practice, an advisory group to the U.S. Congress.
A veteran of World War II, Armistead served in the South Pacific as a member of the Fifth Air Force, a part of the Army Air Corps attached to the Army Signal Corps. The mission of this unit, which came to be known as “The Codebrakers,” was to intercept enemy traffic with concentration on air units. Just two weeks ago, the U.S. Air Force awarded Armistead the Silver Star Medal and two Bronze Star Medals.
Armistead received his B.S. in education from East Texas State University and Doctor of Optometry from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Both universities recognized him with distinguished alumni awards.
Before starting an optometry practice and upon completing college, he began his teaching career in public schools at Blum and Itasca, Texas. While teaching and coaching the girls’ basketball team at Itasca, he met his wife of 72 years, Cora Francis Chappell, who was a fellow teacher and the cheerleader sponsor at the time. It’s said that Armistead lived life every moment, starting each day by saying, “I am happy and enthusiastic. Are you?”