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Ben Davidson dies at 72: Oakland Raider, TV Commercial Star & RAGBRAIer

  • 8 July, 2012

(June 14, 1940 – July 2, 2012)

Ben Davidson, a fan favorite of the 1960s-era Oakland Raiders, TV commercial star and RAGBRAIer, died earlier this week. He was 72.

Davidson rode 10 RAGBRAIs, his first in 1987.

The following except is from John Karras from his book, “RAGBRAI: Everyone Pronounces it Wrong”


At 6 feet 8 inches and 250 pounds, with a gravelly voice that cuts through cacophonous noise-level of any jam-packed small-town bar, Ben Davidson rarely got lost in a crowd as hosts of RAGBRAIers know.

Davidson played professional football from 1961-1974 and was an All-Pro defensive end for the Oakland Raiders in the teams glory years of 1964-1973.  He attended his first RAGBRAI in 1987 and has been on the ride 10 times since 1997.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Davidson family.


  1. Sandaltan

    RIP Ben and thanks for that ice cold shower.


  2. Al Joens

    I remember seeing Ben several times on RAGBRAI over the years and talking to him a few times. A friend of mine, the late Jay Wagner, told a story that he was riding on his mountain bike one day on RAGBRAI when he heard this loud, gravelly voice bark out behind him, “Let’s get a draft line going!” Mr. Davidson had pulled in behind him and wanted a break from the headwind. Jay, somewhat startled and intimidated, kicked it in and said, “Yes sir, yes sir…”

  3. Roland Landsness

    At a Ragbrai overnight in Atlantic, I gave him directions to Joe Podolak’s house where he stayed for the night.

  4. Jerry Gipper

    I first met Ben when I attended a football camp at Upper Iowa in 1968 or 1969. I remember shaking his hand and it was so huge. He was holding a nine-inch paper plate stacked with food in the palm of his other hand. His fingers were wrapped way over the edges all around. I had never seen anyone bench press as much as he could in those days. I rode with him several times during RAGBRAI over the years, he was always easy to pick out on the road with that huge body of his. I was amazed that he recalled the week in Fayette at the football camp. He always was willing to share a story on a hot Iowa summer day or to go out of the way to meet fans. RIP

  5. Timothy Carlson

    Two Stories: First, In Thompson Iowa, Main Street, ~1998, give or take a few years, in his deep voice, “$1.50 for a piece of pie, that’ a rip-ff! I’ll take two!”. Saw him a number of times, always funny, always engaging and enjoying people. Secondly, at the Pork Chop Man, went back to get his bike from leaning against one of the Orange Pork Chop vehicles, he took a few steps, looked back and said in his low voice, “sorry about your truck”. Just the way he said it cracked up the whole crowd. RIP Ben, you will be missed.

  6. Jim Malcolm

    Ben what a gentle giant of a man.

    Ben worked for me as a Miller Lite All Star. He made apperaances @ military bases in Greenland,Iceland,Germany,Italy, Spain etc.

    Seeing Ben interact with our servicemen and women thanking each and everyone for their service to our country was and still is inspiring.He was always the last to leave.

    Best memory with Ben after doing a Mother’s Day Breakfast in Iceland he asked me if I wanted to take a jog……..I’m 5’7″ my 4 steps to his one after 2 miles he then reminded me we needed to call our mom’s. Rest peacefully Ben.

  7. Doug Brown

    As a 19 yr old counterman at a plumbing wholesale house in Hayward in 1969 Ben would come in to buy parts for one of his rental houses. We only sold to licensed contractors but nobody ever asked Ben for a license! I grew my mustache to resemble his at that time. I’m 62 now and still have it. I always credit Ben for my desire to grow it that way.

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