James Davis, History

James C. “Jim” Davis, professor emeritus of European history at the University of Pennsylvania, died on October 26 of heart disease at Cathedral Village in Roxborough, PA where he had lived for the past three years. He was 85 years old.

Dr. Davis earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, a master’s from Penn State University and a PhD in history from Johns Hopkins University. During college, he wrote for the Daily Princetonian and while serving in the US Army in Italy, he edited the Army newspaper. Later, he was known for writing letters to the editor to share his opinions, and some were published in Almanac.

Dr. Davis was a professor of European history at Penn for 34 years before retiring in 1994 as professor emeritus. He served as chair of the department of history from 1989-1990.

Dr. Davis served on the Senate Executive Committee and other Faculty Senate Committees throughout his time at Penn.
He was also co-chair of the ad-hoc Adult Literacy Committee which was created to help Philadelphia’s 500,000 adults who could not read  (Almanac February 24, 1987).

He took up painting during his retirement and shared his love for abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock by hosting family “Pollock Painting Parties” in his backyard. The Burrison Gallery hosted an exhibition of these paintings in 2007 (Almanac October 30, 2007).

Dr. Davis wrote several books, including the 2008 So Far, So Good: An Historian’s Memoirs; The Human Story: Our History from the Stone Age to Today and A Venetian Family and Its Fortune: 1500-1900, published by the American Philosophical Society in 1975

He is survived by his wife, Elda; daughter, Miriam Lally; sons, David and Daniel; six grandchildren; and a brother.

Donations in his memory may be made to the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania via www.mhasp.org or the Alzheimer’s Association via www.alz.org