Under the Dome

Walter Davis dies at 88

Walter Royal Davis, a Pasquotank County farmer's son who became a Texas oil tycoon and returned to North Carolina as a philanthropist and an influential figure in politics and higher education, died Monday night at his home in Chapel Hill.

He was 88, Bruce Siceloff reports.

Davis was a major benefactor and supporter of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a trustee for 16 years, including two years as chairman of the board.

He donated money for scholarships and fought to claim $32 million from the state legislature from the sale of university utilities. Part of that money went to the construction of the university's high-rise Walter R. Davis Library, which opened in 1984.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.


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Re: Walter Davis dies at 88

The dedication of the main research library at UNC-Chapel Hill to Walter Royal Davis a quarter of a century ago was a most appropriate way to honor a North Carolinian who literally would go out of his way to help someone else realize a brighter future. In a time of remembrance at the passing of Mr. Davis, his fellow North Carolinians will surely recall his devotion to the cause of education in North Carolina even amidst the many marvels of his business career accomplishments.

The Walter Royal Davis Library itself, anchoring so many academic, teaching and research pursuits on the flagship campus of the University of North Carolina, symbolizes the continuing struggle to protect educational learning, academic scholarship and career advancement from the excesses of partisan politics as they might adversely affect the quest for the continuing education of the people of this state both from within and from outside its borders.

Here's hoping that the university library named in his honor will continue to be one place among many where North Carolinians, Americans from across the country and citizens of other nations can immerse themselves in the unfettered search for the broader horizons of learning and the higher truths of life.

Walter Davis knew more than a thing or two about politics, and he counted many of the state's most influential political leaders of the last half century among his closer personal friends and associates. But he never forgot the needs and aspirations of the potato farmer back in Pasquotank County nor those of the working people of all the cities, towns and rural communities of North Carolina.

Walter Royal Davis knew what it meant to succeed in business in a big way, but he also understood and did his best to assist at every turn the efforts of individual North Carolinians to achieve the incremental gains in their day-to-day living situations enabling them to move a step closer toward realizing their dreams for a better future for themselves and their families. Yes, bold international businessman that he was, he also was "an enabler" extraordinaire for the people of his state.

Folks from New York, Texas and other places in this country often talk about individuals who are considered "bigger than life" in their various occupational pursuits and personal adventures. Out of the historic Albemarle region of Northeastern North Carolina also came just such a person in Walter Royal Davis, and his personal influence in behalf of the betterment of his state and country will form a lasting imprint on the sands and hills of the Old North State.

David Proctor McKnight

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