She calls the neatly trimmed hedges that spell out “Southern” her prayer garden. There, on Saturday mornings, with the Jaguar statue of Lacumba looking on and A.W. Mumford Stadium just yards away, Judy Martin-Davis flips open her Bible and prays.
On the Saturday of Southern’s first home game against, Alabama A&M, it’s Psalm 37.
“A&M is not evil, but they are our challenge. And Jeremiah 29:11. ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’” Martin-Davis, 46, quoted as she left her first stop of the day, a prelude to a few hours of tailgating and the game on Saturday night.
It’s a ritual Martin-Davis said she’s performed since 2005, when she became Lady Jaguar. Or make that “Her Eminence Lady Jaguar,” according to the magnetic placards on her blue Cadillac, which, of course, she calls her Jagulac.
Festooned with 28 SU flags that sound like a Blackhawk helicopter when she cruises down Harding Boulevard, the Jagulac carries Lady Jaguar and her entourage of 21 stuffed jaguars, who ride in the backseat until game day when they move to the trunk to become a small shrine to Southern’s mascot.
Martin-Davis totes one of the biggest jags to the games, perching it on her shoulder as she marches along the track on the visitors’ side of the stadium.
“There’s not enough room on Southern’s side,” she explained, calling out her signature “Hey lovelies” to the many Southern fans sitting in the stadium’s east stands.
Occasionally someone will call out, “Hey, Mama Jag.”
But, Mama Jag she is not, Martin-Davis made clear.
Until her death in 2005, Jewel Durr Jefferson was Mama Jag to the Southern nation for more than 35 years.
“I admired Mama Jag for years, but I never met her until 2003,” said Martin-Davis. “We became very good friends … She asked me to take her place. But I told her I couldn’t take her place, I could take her space.”
Before that Martin-Davis, a receptionist at Guaranty Corp., had been a typical fan. She’s not a Southern grad and has no official ties to the university.
“I just always loved going to the games,” she said. “I’d wear a Jag T-shirt and run in the stands screaming ‘That’s my boys!’ ”
After meeting Mama Jag, she began working on Lady Jaguar, a name she said she’s trademarked.
Little by little her look developed, and now Martin-Davis said she dresses almost exclusively in Southern’s Colonial blue and gold.
When Linda Morgan, owner of Coach’s Corner on Swan Street, gets in new merchandise, she shoots Martin-Davis a photo.
“I have created a monster — a Jaguar monster,” Morgan said laughing on game day when Martin-Davis stopped by for more flags for the Jagulac. “I have to say, ‘Judy, enough.’ But it’s in her blood. You can’t stop her.”
While the car, the clothes and the stuffed jaguars speak of Martin-Davis’ devotion to Southern, they are only whispers compared to her hands and feet.
Spangled and sparking in blue and gold, Martin-Davis’ fingernails and toenails are tiny works of art dedicated to her beloved Jags. Nails like that don’t come cheap, and they require no small amount of care to keep them looking great. It takes three hours to get them done. Add another 30 minutes for her toenails.
“That is one of Lady Jaguar’s secrets,” Martin-Davis said with a laugh about the cost of her blinged-out talons.
Walking around campus hours before the game, Martin-Davis stopped to visit outside the Field House with coach O’Neill Gilbert, the Jaguars’ defensive coordinator.
Looking at her twinkling nails, Gilbert pointed to the ring finger on her right hand. “I want my name right there before the Jackson State game,” he said.
“Because everybody is impressed with them,” he said, “and that will get everybody’s attention.”
Walking away, Martin-Davis made a mental note to call Maria’s Divalicious Nails for an appointment before Saturday’s contest against one of Southern’s biggest rivals.
For Martin-Davis, it’s all a way to show how much she loves Southern. She said she’s willing to help any student, player or not, who needs her to listen, pray or offer encouragement.
“I want them to go out and become successful men and women,” said Martin-Davis, adding that she is a licensed minister.
And, while she’d really like to see Southern succeed on the football field, she said she’s committed to being at every game — home and away — no matter what.
“Even with a tough season, my goal is to keep Southern’s pride going,” she said. “I’m not off the bandwagon, I’m driving it.”
And, the good Lord willing, that bandwagon is going to roll right over Jackson State on Saturday night.
“Lord, because I believe your will will be done, I pray for the victory for Southern University,” Martin-Davis intoned last Saturday morning.
And, against Alabama A&M, her prayers were answered — Southern 21, Alabama 6.