Chancellor emeritus of Arkansas HBCU dies at 85
Dr. Lawrence A. Davis, Jr. oversaw the addition of campus buildings and revitalized the sports programs at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Dr. Lawrence A. Davis Jr., the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) chancellor emeritus, died Saturday. He was 85.
The university announced on Facebook that Davis passed away at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff. The university, an HBCU in the University of Arkansas system, did not list a cause of death.
Just eight days before his death, Davis was the school’s grand marshal in the UAPB homecoming parade, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
Davis and his family had a strong connection to the university. Davis lived on campus for part of the time his father, L.A. “Prexy” Davis Sr., served as president of then-Arkansas AM&N College. Davis Sr. held the president’s post from 1943 until 1972 when AM&N joined the Arkansas System and became known as UAPB.
The university named Davis chancellor in 1991, when he was a faculty member in mathematics and physics at Pine Bluff. Before he joined the faculty as a professor, he taught mathematics and physics at Mississippi Valley State University and NASA.
Davis helmed the university during a difficult time. A story in the Pine Bluff Commercial noted Pine Bluff faced a $3 million deficit. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that the university also faced challenges with its security services, band, and football team.
In a 1998 interview, he said he wanted to build a “no excuse” university. “What I’m saying to the public at large is that if you support UAPB and help us build this university so that it reaches its maximum potential, we won’t ask for any special considerations. We will compete if we have the resources,” he told the Democrat-Gazette.
During Davis’ tenure, the university constructed three new academic buildings and built and renovated campus housing, according to the university.
He also played a huge role in revitalizing the university’s sports programs. In 1990, the NAIA, a football division for smaller schools, shut down the Pine Bluff program because of player eligibility issues. The squad relaunched in 1991 and in 1994, it lost the national championship by one point to Northeastern (OK) State, 13-12. The team moved to the SWAC Division I in 1997.
Davis was earned inducted into the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame in 2018. The Democrat-Gazette reported Davis was inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame in 2012, the same year Pine Bluff won the conference’s championship.
Davis graduated from Merrill High in 1954, according to the Democrat-Gazette. He attended AM&N, where he played basketball and lettered. Davis also excelled academically; he was twice recognized for having the highest GPA of any athlete. Omega Psi Phi Fraternity named him an outstanding scholar. He completed his doctorate at Iowa State University.
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