Dr. Lawrence A. Davis
The life of Dr. Lawrence A. Davis is one of dedication, dedication to academic excellence; dedication to shaping the young minds of African-American youth. A dedication lovingly passed on to the next generation of the Davis family. A native of McCrory, Davis graduated from Arkansas AM & N College at Pine Bluff and served as the institution’s registrar and cashier from 1937 to 1939.
After earning a master of arts degree from the University of Kansas at Lawrence, he resumed his AM & N job as registrar and later became assistant to then-president Dr. John Brown Watson. Davis became acting president in 1942, becoming the first alumnus to head the college. In April 1943, at the age of 29, Davis was named permanent president of the college. He was the youngest college president in the United States. Meanwhile, Davis in 1960 earned a doctorate in education at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
He has received honorary degrees from a number of institutions including Lane College at Jackson, TN.; Morehouse College at Atlanta, GA.; and Hendrix College at Conway, AR. Under Davis’ guidance, AM & N became the fastest-growing institution of higher learning in the entire South. Enrollment, which stood at only 400 when Davis became president, rose to 3,500 students by 1969.
In 1972, AM & N became the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and Davis named its first chancellor. He held that position for a year before he resigned and moved to New York, where he worked at the R. R. Moten Foundation. He later became the president of Laney College at Oakland, CA. He retired from that job and went on to direct a Senior Companion program at Oakland. Throughout his life, Davis has served in numerous organizations including the national Education Association to the American Teachers Association; the national Council of the Boy Scouts of America; the National Conference of Christians and Jews; and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
He was delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1968. He also served on President Johnson’s commission to Study Rural Poverty in America and on President Nixon’s Commission to Study Population Growth in America. Davis is father to ten children including Dr. Lawrence A. Davis, Jr., current chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff