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Davis, Gordon J.(1941–) - Lawyer, business executive, Chronology

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Gordon J. Davis is a well-known attorney and former president of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York. With a love for the arts that began at a young age, Davis was the founding chairman of the Jazz at the Lincoln Center board. According to Davis, his parents had a play reading circle that met in their living room. His early memories are of coming into his house and seeing the adults reading excerpts from dramatic productions. He even remembers Lorraine Hansberry, author of A Raisin in the Sun , participating in these readings.

Davis was born on August 7, 1941 in Chicago, Illinois. He was the son of a University of Chicago professor, yet he grew up near an almost exclusively all African American neighborhood. Davis credits the musical influences he heard there as fostering his early love of music. Jazz was his favorite. In 1963, he received his degree from Williams College. In 1967, he received his J.D. from Harvard University.

Davis began practicing law in 1968. His specialty initially was real estate and later he expanded that to complex real estate, land development and environmental conflicts, public finance, and cultural and not-for-profit organizations. Davis soon began to work in or with state and city government. In 1973, he began to serve as a member of the New York City Planning Commission. By 1978, he was appointed by Mayor Edward I. Koch to be commissioner of Parks and Recreation for the city of New York. He served in that capacity until 1983. During his term as commissioner of parks and recreation, he established highly popular free concerts that attracted artists such as Diana Ross and Simon and Garfunkel. He was a co-founder of the Central Park Conservancy. In 1990, Davis became the founding chairman of Jazz at the Lincoln Center. He helped to raise $80 million for a building campaign for this program. His achievements did not go unnoticed, and in 2001, he was chosen to be the president of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, the first African American to hold that position.

The Lincoln Center presented quite a challenge for Davis. He wanted to stress diversity in its many offerings. With much success, Davis helped to raise and manage $1.5 million for the renovation of the center and its property. He also appropriated a ten-year, $240 million grant from New York City, the largest grant of any kind to be awarded to an arts organization. But despite Davis’s success, problems occurred early on in his tenure.

After working for the Lincoln Center for nine months, on September 27, 2001, Davis presented a resignation letter to Lincoln Center chair, Beverly Sills. It was one of the most difficult decisions of his career. Ongoing disagreements between different groups at Lincoln Center frustrated Davis and made it very difficult to establish unity.

Davis became a partner at LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae LLP, in New York in October 1994. By November 2001, he was a senior partner at the New York law firm. He served as a trustee of Consolidated Edison Inc. Holding Company in 1989 and became the director of that company in 1997. He served in the capacity of director of numerous other companies and organizations. Moreover, his list of clients is very impressive. He has represented Viacom, Pepsico, the Lincoln Center, and New York Public Library, to name a few.

Davis wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal and was a featured speaker for the New York historical society in conjunction with the Central Park Conversancy in honor of Central Park’s 150th anniversary on October 16, 2003.

Davis continues to practice law with LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae LLP. He assists clients in assessing possible development options, exploring different sources of funding and finance, and negotiating correct contract provisions. He also gives counsel on zoning and planning and historic preservation and landmark. Davis continues to be active with Jazz at the Lincoln Center. Davis is married to New York University law professor Peggy Cooper Davis. They have one daughter who is an aspiring actress. Davis was the lead counsel on the $250 million development of the American Museum of Natural History Rose Center and on the over $7 billion revitalization of the World Trade Center site.



Born in Chicago, Illinois on August 7


Graduates from Williamsburg College with an A.B. degree


Receives law degree from Harvard University


Admitted to law practice in Chicago, Illinois


Begins serving as a member of the New York City Planning Commission


Accepts appointment by Mayor Edward Koch to be the commissioner of Parks and Recreation for the City of New York


Serves as a trustee of Consolidation Edison of New York


Begins to serve as chair of the Department of Jazz at the Lincoln Center


Becomes a partner at LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae LLP


Becomes director of Consolidated Edison of New York


Becomes the first black president of New York City’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; resigns nine months later


Receives distinction as one of top U.S. black lawyers by Black Enterprise

Davis, Gussie Lord(1863–1899) - Composer, lyricist, entrepreneur, Early Career Path, Songwriting Successes, Chronology [next] [back] Davis, Frank Marshall(1905–1987) - Chronology, Southern Discomfort, Posthumous Writings

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