Guide to the Neil O. Davis Papers, RG 741

Processed by: Melanie Welch & Javan Frazier
Listed by: Dieter C. Ullrich
Date: September 2003

Date Span:

8.5 cubic feet.

Number of Boxes:
5 Record Center Boxes, 2 Flat Oversized Boxes, and 1 1/2 Doc Box.

Historical or Biographical Sketch:
Neil Owen Davis (1914-2000), a native of Hartford, Alabama (Geneva County) majored in English/journalism at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (Auburn University) and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1935. From 1934 to 1935, he served as student editor of the Auburn campus weekly The Plainsman. After brief stints with the Dothan Eagle (Alabama), the Northwest Georgia Journal (Rossville), and the Southwest Georgian (Fort Gaines) following graduation, he returned to Auburn and established the Lee County Bulletin (later Auburn Bulletin) in February 1937. In November 1938, he married Columbus, Georgia native Henrietta Worsley (1914-1987), also a journalist and 1935 graduate of Alabama Polytechnic Institute. Henrietta became an associate editor of the Bulletin. The couple had three children, Katherine, Lee, and Owen. He was awarded a Nieman Fellowship in 1940 and studied at Harvard University from 1941 to 1942. When the United States entered World War II, he went to Washington, D. C. to volunteer for service in Army Intelligence. Following three years of service with the Army's Office of the Assistant Chief of Air Staff Personnel, he was reassigned to the War Department's General Staff, Legislative and Liaison Division and served until September 1945. While serving in Washington, D. C., Davis, a liberal Democrat, became acquainted with a number of prominent people including Justice Hugo Black, Senator Lister Hill, Aubrey Williams, and Clifford and Virginia Durr. After returning to Auburn, Davis continued to edit and publish the Lee County Bulletin. In 1947, he was elected president of the Alabama Press Association. In 1949, he purchased a one third interest in WAUD, a local radio station. As the issue of civil rights took center stage in the 1950s and 1960s, Davis continued to make the Bulletin a voice of southern liberalism. In the 1950s, he called on the public to accommodate desegregation. By the 1960s, he openly defended the constitutionality of equality for people of all races and creeds. Davis' editorials were reprinted in the New York Times and other newspapers across the country. In July 1964, he purchased the Tuskegee News. The editorials in both the Bulletin and the Tuskegee News were nominated for Pulitzer prizes in 1960 and 1967. In May 1963, Davis and others lunched at the White House with President John F. Kennedy. Davis served on a number of committees and boards throughout his life. In 1950, he was elected to the Alabama State Democratic Executive Committee. He was reelected in 1954, but lost his bid for a fourth term in 1956. From 1951 to 1955, he served on the Alabama State Board of Pardons and Paroles. He also served on the Alabama Ethics Commission from 1979 to 1984 and on the Agnes Scott College board of trustees. In the 1950s, while Dr. John H. Leith was pastor of Auburn First Presbyterian Church, Davis' faith became grounded in a modified form of the social gospel. He served as a church elder and taught Sunday school. In 1969, he helped establish the Presbyterian Community Ministry. A member of the Board of Christian Education from 1959 to 1968, he also served on the United States Presbyterian Church's Committee on a New Confession of Faith in the 1970s. His concern for the poor and the cause of education was also reflected in his service on President Lyndon B. Johnson's National Advisory Commission on Rural Poverty from 1966 to 1968. In June 1975, he sold the Auburn Bulletin and the Tuskegee News and he and Henrietta retired. After his retirement, Davis taught journalism at Auburn University from 1976 to 1980 and remained active in civic life. Henrietta W. Davis died November 7, 1987 at age 73. Neil O. Davis died June 7, 2000 at age 85.

Scope and Content:
The Neil Owen Davis Papers (1927-2000, bulk 1940s-1980s) document the personal, professional, military, educational, civic, political and religious life of Neil and Henrietta W. Davis. The papers are comprised of dated and undated correspondence, published materials, writings, notes, speeches, lectures, notebooks, financial records, news clippings, scrapbooks, award certificates, photographs and miscellaneous. The collection is organized into seventeen series.

Item list:
Series 1: Correspondence
Dates: August 17, 1927-May 30, 2000
This series, arranged chronologically, is one of the most extensive. There is correspondence dealing with the personal, political, educational, religious, civic and professional lives of Neil and Henrietta Davis. There are handwritten letters from Tuskegee civil rights leader Charles Goode Gomillion and Arkansas congressmen Brooks Hays, a social reformer and racial moderate. Other notable correspondents include Alabama Senator Lister Hill and his daughter Henrietta Hill Hubbard, journalist Charles Dobbins, Aubrey Williams, Justice Hugo Black, President John F. Kennedy, and various Alabama governors. This series includes undated correspondence and greeting cards.

Box 1

Box 2 Series 2: Henrietta Worsley Davis
Dates: 1936-1997
This series, arranged chronologically, contains materials relating to Henrietta Worsley Davis. Materials include published news items, a report on radio stations and two articles written or co-written by Henrietta Davis, certificates of recognition, an Alabama Newspaper Hall of Honor induction program, and copies of her obituary. Series 3: Published Materials
Dates: 1946-1995
This series, arranged chronologically, consists of various publications including The Alabama Publisher and The Nation which contain either news items about or articles written by Neil Davis. Series 4: Awards, Honors, Appointments, and Memberships
Dates: 1940-1998
This series contains certificates of merit, recognition, appreciation, appointment, and membership, winner/award announcements, published news items, judge's comments, programs, remarks, and photographs. The certificates pertaining to the Lee County Bulletin are arranged together chronologically, and those pertaining to Neil Davis are arranged together chronologically. The winner/award announcements, published news items, judge's comments, programs, remarks and photographs are arranged chronologically. Series 5 - President's National Advisory Commission on Rural Poverty
Dates: 1966-1968
This series contains materials relating to Davis' service on President Lyndon B. Johnson's National Advisory Commission on Rural Poverty from 1966 to 1968. Materials include a notebook from the commission's third meeting in May 1967. Arranged according to its sections (A, B, C etc.), the notebook contains reports dealing with such subjects as the demographic characteristics of poverty, housing and health conditions, and employment. There is also the commission's Report and Recommendations from July 1967. Arranged according to its chapters (1-15), this report covers such subjects as the reasons for rural poverty, housing, health, education, natural resource development and community organization. There is also a very small collection of memorandums, notes, and other materials and a published report entitled The People Left Behind (1967). Box 3 Series 6: Auburn Professor of Journalism
Dates: 1975-1979
This series consists of lectures, handouts, review sheets, quizzes, exams, student papers, and appointment materials from Davis' years as an adjunct professor of journalism at Auburn University from 1976 to 1980. The lectures are arranged chronologically. The rest of the materials are arranged alphabetically by folder title. Series 7: Nieman Fellow
Dates: 1938-1981
Arranged alphabetically by folder title, this series consists of announcements, schedules, memorandums, newsletters, handwritten notes, and lists relating to Davis' year as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University from 1941 to 1942. There are also materials from Nieman Fellow reunions held in 1948 and 1981. Box 4 Series 8: Speeches
Dates: 1946-1994
This series, arranged chronologically, contains speeches dealing with such subjects as the town of Auburn, Auburn University, newspaper editing, community schools, and Alabama politics, many of which were probably prepared and given by Neil Davis. There are also undated speeches in this series. Series 9: News clippings
Dates: 1932-1999
This series contains news clippings from various Alabama, Georgia, and out-of-state newspapers, mostly pertaining to the civic, educational, political, and professional life of Neil and Henrietta Davis. The clippings are arranged alphabetically by newspaper title. A portion of the clippings (1937-1938) contains news articles written by Henrietta Davis for the Columbus (Georgia) News-Record. There are also obituaries and a small collection of undated clippings. Series 10: Graham M. McTeer's Notebooks
Dates: 1955-1975
This series, arranged chronologically, contains the handwritten notes of Graham M. McTeer in ten spiral notebooks. McTeer was the managing editor of the Lee County Bulletin and a close friend of Davis. The notes are from Auburn City Council and Auburn University Board of Trustees meetings. Series 11: Other Commissions, Committees, Councils and Boards
Dates: 1950-1990
This series, arranged chronologically, contains annual reports, programs, pamphlets, lists of members, memorandums, meeting minutes, agendas, notes, and advisory opinions relating to Davis' service on various other commissions, committees, councils and boards. These include the Alabama State Board of Pardons and Paroles and the Alabama Ethics Commission. Box 5
Series 12: Military Service
Dates: 1942-1949
This series is arranged chronologically. Materials include special and temporary duty orders, news bulletins, regulation and instruction booklets, personnel and telephone directories and other materials from Davis' service in the army during World War II (1942-1945). There is also a small amount of official correspondence (1942-1949). Series 13: Financial Records
Dates: 1939-1972
This series, arranged chronologically, consists of the financial records of the Auburn Broadcasting Company, Inc., and the Bulletin Publishing Company (which published the Lee County Bulletin). Auburn Broadcasting Company records include promissory notes (1948-1965) and reports of audit from 1948, 1950 and 1960, which include balance sheets, statements of income and expenses, accounts receivables, and other such statements. Bulletin Publishing Company records include promissory notes (1939-1943) and account examination reports from 1944, 1946, 1948, 1949, 1952, and 1957, which include balance sheets, profit and loss statements, depreciation schedules and other such statements. There is also an Alabama Income Tax Return for Neil and Henrietta Davis from 1946-1947. Series 14: Religious Life
Dates: 1948-1994
This series contains materials relating to the religious life of Neil and Henrietta Davis. Subjects covered include the Board of Christian Education, the United States Presbyterian Church's Committee on a New Confession of Faith, the Synod of the Mid-South, and Dr. John H. Leith. Materials are arranged by subject and then chronologically. Materials include meeting minutes, reports, membership lists, agendas, drafts of the new confession of faith, programs, sermons, guides, prayers, speeches, lessons, and published news items. Series 15: Miscellaneous
Dates: 1939-1990
This series contains miscellaneous materials arranged alphabetically by folder title. These include Auburn University Class Reunion materials, short biographical data sheets on Neil Davis, obituaries, programs, handwritten notes, and reports. Box 6
Series 16: Photographs
This series, arranged by subject, contains mostly undated black and white and color photographs. There are photographs of Neil Davis and Graham M. McTeer by themselves and with each other, and photographs of Davis with his wife Henrietta. There is a set of photo negatives of members of the Bulletin staff. There are two photographs of Davis lunching with President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and a photograph of Davis with Senator Ted Kennedy. There are also a small number of miscellaneous photographs. Box 7
Series 17: Scrapbooks and Oversize Items
This series contains one scrapbook pertaining to Davis' service on the Alabama Ethics Commission from 1979 to 1984. It contains copies of the Alabama Ethics Commission's annual reports from 1978 through 1984 and photocopies of cartoons and news clippings. The oversize items include material from the following series: Awards, Honors, Appointments, and Memberships, Religious Life, and Published Materials Series. This series also includes clippings from the Auburn Bulletin (1978-1984) containing Neil Davis' column "Of Cabbages and Kings." There are also other editorials/articles written by Neil Davis and newspapers of interest to Davis. Box 8

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