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13 Berkley Davis

Berkley Davis
Hometown (Last School)
Lewisport, KY
1931-32, 1933-34
October 27, 1911

Obituary – Former City Commissioner, Davis, Dies at 85, Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer (June 21, 1997) by Dan Heckel

L. Berkley Davis Sr., a former city commissioner and industry leader credited with bringing many jobs to Owensboro, died Friday in his home in Fairfield, Iowa. He was 85.

“He had quite an impact on this town,” according to C. Waitman Taylor, Davis’ first cousin who worked with him for 14 years at General Electric and followed his lead into public office.

“He truly brought a lot of jobs to Owensboro through General Electric,” Taylor said. “He kept jobs here that without his presence would not have stayed here.”

Davis was born in Lewisport and earned a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Kentucky in 1934. While there, he played basketball for legendary coach Adolph Rupp and was a member of the 1934 team that set a national record with 23 consecutive wins.

Later in 1934, Davis joined the Ken-Rad Tube and Lamp Corp. in Owensboro as an engineer. When General Electric bought Ken-Rad in 1945, Davis was named manager of operations.

In 1956, he became general manager of the company’s electronic components division with its headquarters in Owensboro overseeing plants in Syracuse, Auburn and Schenectady, N.Y.; Tell City, Ind., and Anniston, Ala. He was elected vice president of G.E. in 1960. At one time, the General Electric plant here employed 6,700 people.

In 1954, Davis was elected city commissioner, where he served until 1958 under Mayor Cap Gardner.

“He was one of the all-time outstanding leaders,” Gardner said Friday. “He was vital in getting the first industrial foundation started here” in 1957, Gardner said.

That commission oversaw the switch from a strong-mayor government to the city manager form. Because of his engineering background, Davis was appointed to oversee Owensboro Municipal Utilities for the commission, Gardner said.

Taylor said Davis was active in many civic organizations. He was an original board member with Junior Achievement, president of the local chamber of commerce in 1949 and a founding member of Owensboro Progress, a group of business leaders who identified projects the community needed, Taylor said.

One of those projects was building the current Daviess County Courthouse in 1964, which voters had rejected several times, according to Morton Holbrook a longtime attorney who went to college with Davis.

“It’s hard to think of anything in Owensboro that Berk wasn’t leading or supporting,” Holbrook said.

Davis was president of the Electronics Industries Association and was awarded that group’s medal of honor in 1963. He also served as president of the UK alumni association and was a founding member of the UK Development Council.

In 1966, Davis was promoted to general manager of G.E.’s defense programs division in Washington, D.C. About 100 local people attended Berkley Davis Day in 1966 when he prepared to leave.

The Messenger-Inquirer devoted an entire page to the event.

After retiring in 1976, Davis moved to Sarasota, Fla, where he enjoyed his time playing golf, his brother-in-law Dr. Frank Yarbrough said. He eventually left there to move to Fairfield, Iowa, to be near his daughter and granddaughter, Yarbrough said.

“He was one of the movers and shakers,” Yarbrough said. “he and Bill Elmer (president of Texas gas Transmission Corp.) were the guys to go to if you wanted to get something done in this town.”

Davis’ wife of 50 years, Bettye Davis, died in 1993.

L. Berkley Davis – Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer

L. Berkley Davis, 85 of Fairfield, Iowa, formerly of Lewisport, died June 20, 1997, in Fairfield. He was born in Lewisport and retired as the head of General Electric’s Defense Programs Division in 1976. He joined the Ken-Rad Tube and Lamp Co. in 1934 and was appointed manager of Owensboro Operations when GE acquired the company and was later elected vice president of GE in 1960.

He graduated from the University of Kentucky in the electrical engineering class of 1934, where he played basketball under coach Adolph Rupp and later earned his doctorate of science degree in 1973. He was active in the Scabbard and Blade Military Society and the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity at the University of Kentucky.

He was past president of the Electronics Industries Association from whom he received the E.I.A. Medal of Honor. He served as a city commissioner of Owensboro and was a past president of the Owensboro Chamber of Commerce. He served as president of the University of Kentucky Alumni Association and was one of the first members of the Central Committee of the Century Club. He was a founding member of the University of Kentucky Development Council and wa a member of Spindletop Research Inc.

His wife of 52 years, Elizabeth Miller Davis, died Feb. 16, 1996.

Survivors include a son, Dr. L. Berkley Davis of Schenectady, N.Y.; a daughter, Cynthia Lindell of Fairfield; one grandchild; and several cousins.

Memorial services are at 2 p.m. Saturday at Lewisport Cemetery. There will be no visitation. Taylor-Raymond-Spear Funeral Home in Lewisport is in charge of arrangements.

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