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Gordon J. Davis

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Information about Gordon J. Davis

Profile image of Gordon J. Davis

Profession

Category:
LawMakers
CivicMakers
Occupation(s):
Lawyer
Civic Leader

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Fried Chicken, Watermelon
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Oak Bluffs
Favorite Quote:
Black People Are Just As Good As White People, Actually, They're A Little Better.

Birthplace

Born:
8/7/1941
Birth Location:
Chicago, Illinois

Profession

Category:
LawMakers
CivicMakers
Occupation(s):
Lawyer
Civic Leader

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Fried Chicken, Watermelon
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Oak Bluffs
Favorite Quote:
Black People Are Just As Good As White People, Actually, They're A Little Better.

Birthplace

Born:
8/7/1941
Birth Location:
Chicago
See how Gordon J. Davis is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Lawyer and civic leader Gordon J. Davis was born on August 7, 1941, in Chicago, Illinois to William Allison Davis and Elizabeth Stubbs Davis. Davis grew up near a predominantly African American neighborhood, where he gained a passion for jazz and the arts. He graduated from Williams College in 1963 with his B.A. degree, and then from Harvard Law School in 1967 with his J.D. degree.

Upon graduation, Davis moved to New York City and worked as special assistant to Mayor John Lindsay. He served on the New York City Planning Commission from 1973 until 1978, when he was appointed New York City’s first African American commissioner of Parks and Recreation. During his service as commissioner, Davis was instrumental in the founding of the Central Park Conservancy. In 1983, Davis resigned as commissioner of Parks and Recreation and joined the law firm of Lord, Day & Lord. He began serving as counsel to the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts that same year. In 1990, he became the founding chairman of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Davis was named partner at the law firm of LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae in 1994, but left in 2001 when he was voted the first African American president of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Davis held this position for nine months before returning to LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae as a senior partner. In 2002, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the organization overseeing the redevelopment of the Ground Zero site, became his client. Davis was named partner at Dewey & LeBoeuf in 2007, after a merger joined LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae and Dewey Ballantine. In 2012, he moved to Venable, LLP as a partner. Davis’ clients have included the New York Public Library, Mt. Sinai Medical Center, the United States Tennis Association, and the American Museum of Natural History.

Davis has served on the board of directors of the Municipal Art Society of New York as well as other civic and arts organizations in New York City. In 2001, he was honored by 100 Black Men for his public service, and was named one of “America’s Top Black Lawyers” by Black Enterprise magazine the following year. He was appointed to a six-year term on the board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts by President Barack Obama in 2010.

Davis lives in New York City with his wife, and has one daughter.

Gordon J. Davis was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 17, 2014.

See how Gordon J. Davis is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Gordon J. Davis narrates his photographs, pt.1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Gordon J. Davis narrates his photographs, pt.2
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gordon J. Davis narrates his photographs, pt.3
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Slating of Gordon J. Davis' interview
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Gordon J. Davis lists his favorites
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Gordon J. Davis talks about his mother's family history
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Gordon J. Davis recalls the untimely death of his maternal uncle, Frederick Douglass Stubbs
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Gordon J. Davis talks about his mother's education and his parents' marriage
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Gordon J. Davis compares his experience at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts to his father's
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Gordon J. Davis recounts his confrontation with the dean of freshman at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Gordon J. Davis describes his childhood neighborhood of Hyde Park in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Gordon J. Davis details his father's family background
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Gordon J. Davis talks about his paternal grandfather's civil service career being derailed by President Woodrow Wilson's racist policies
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Gordon J. Davis cites publications that include his paternal family history
  • Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Gordon J. Davis talks about his father's time and legacy at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Gordon J. Davis talks about his paternal family's educational achievements
  • Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Gordon J. Davis explains his father's bitterness toward Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Gordon J. Davis describes his father's experiences at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts and his Natchez research
  • Tape: 2 Story: 16 - Gordon J. Davis talks about his father's second marriage to Lois Mason and how the two met at Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Tape: 2 Story: 17 - Gordon J. Davis describes his father's friendship with the author Sterling Brown
  • Tape: 2 Story: 18 - Gordon J. Davis describes his father's personality
  • Tape: 2 Story: 19 - Gordon J. Davis describes his father's success as an academic innovator and mentor
  • Tape: 2 Story: 20 - Gordon J. Davis explains the significance of the Rosenwald Foundation
  • Tape: 2 Story: 21 - Gordon J. Davis describes his mother's later years
  • Tape: 2 Story: 22 - Gordon J. Davis describes his earliest childhood memories and his experience at Hyde Park High School in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Gordon J. Davis talks about his older brother
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Gordon J. Davis recalls perceptions of race and class while growing up in Hyde Park, Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Gordon J. Davis talks about his family's sense of racial identity, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Gordon J. Davis talks about his family's sense of racial identity, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Gordon J. Davis describes the use of humor in diffusing racially charged situations
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Gordon J. Davis remembers his time at the University of Chicago Laboratory School in Chicago, Illinois and in Jack and Jill
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Gordon J. Davis explains his academic goals and choosing to attend Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Gordon J. Davis describes his family lineage and racial identity
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Gordon J. Davis reminisces about his classmates at Francis Parker High School in Chicago, Illinois and his mother's death
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Gordon J. Davis describes his father's and uncle's careers academic careers
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Gordon J. Davis describes his summers at Idlewild, Michigan and his experience at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Gordon J. Davis remembers joining civil rights protests during his freshman year at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Gordon J. Davis recalls the social atmosphere during his time at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Gordon J. Davis talks about the movement to abolish fraternities at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts