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Yale 62

Richard R. Davis
July 28, 1936 – August 7, 2023

Richard R. Davis died in New York City on August 7. Born in Houston, TX to William Ralph Davis and Virginia Lee Allison, he early moved to Alexandria, VA, where he attended the Episcopal High School. In 1956, after one semester at Yale, he enlisted in the army for a tour as an instructor, teaching NATO and U.S. troops in Nike and fire control systems for anti-aircraft missiles at Fort Bliss, Texas, one of the two largest Army bases, along with White Sands.

He then entered the class of ’62. A member of Calhoun College, he majored in Philosophy and was in the Debate and Transportation Club and a member of the Political Union. Undecided on a career, he simultaneously attended the Yale Law School and the Columbia Business School. He opted for law and became a partner in the law firm of Chadbourne & Parke in 1974, specializing in corporate law. Important highlights of his career included serving as General Counsel of Inspiration Resources Corporation, visiting their mines and plants throughout North America, and as General Counsel of Bessemer Securities and Trust, and on the board of Meharry Medical College, a historical Black medical school.

He will be remembered for his sense of adventure, dignity to others and love of family. He is survived by his wife, Christina, of 49 years and daughter, Virginia Lee Allison Davis O’Keefe, son-in-law Edward F. O’Keefe and two grandchildren, Elsa Cecelia O’Keefe, and Alton Davis O’Keefe, ages 12 and 7. A private burial service will be held at Mount Comfort Cemetery in Alexandria, VA. A fund has been established at the Yale Library, the Richard R. Davis Library Conservation Resource Fund.

Richard’s eloquent and heart-felt entry in our 50th Reunion Classbook summed up his professional and private life. About retirement he wrote, “Each semester at Yale my choice of courses was a frustrating exercise, because there were always many more I wanted to take than the schedule permitted. In an ironic turn, I have experienced similar frustration in retirement, because there is far more I would like to read and see than time permits. But I relish the freedom to choose what to read and where to travel….In the past few years we have visited, for example, China, Tibet, Antarctica, the DMZ in Korea, dinosaur digs in Mongolia, UNESCO sites in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, Borobudur in Java and Ice Age cave art in southern France.”

In 1980, Richard was invited to speak in Johannesburg to a panel of judges on the History of American Aviation. Following the presentation, Christina and Richard were invited to visit Western Deep, a gold mine descending 2.2 miles into the earth. They descended in the open cage shaft over one mile into the interior. Richard then transferred to the second shaft and descended another mile. The mine is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, which Allison and Richard hiked up in 2009.

His longtime friend and college roommate Dick Zorn wrote “His wife Christina points out that we were such close friends, while being opposite personalities. My wife asked me how I remembered Richard in college. I said he was always studying and took academics seriously. He was trusting of me enough to go up in my father’s one engine small plane, which my father piloted, but he was greatly relieved, in his polite way, when we landed safely. I will miss him.”

I knew him as a longtime and faithful member of the Class Council. He attended meetings regularly – his dry sense of humor was always there, and he never wasted a word in offering good information, opinions, and advice.

— John Harger Stewart

REMEMBRANCE by Bernie Zucker

To me, Richard always represented a wise friend. From the first year at Yale in 1958, he was very different from our other classmates. He had entered Yale two years before us and then re-entered after a stint in the Army. He always thought before he spoke. He had the gentleness of smiles. When I or some of our classmates would tell him something preposterous, he just grinned. Never screamed or raised his voice. He was interested in virtually every subject we were taking.

When I would visit him and Dick Zorn in Calhoun, I always left happy. My definition of friendship is when you leave the person happier than when you first saw them.

I was pretty sure Richard would become a lawyer, because he was always so precise in his language skills. But I never expected him to get a double degree in law and business.

After law school, he and Bob Gray rented a sprawling upper west side apartment. Another lawyer they both knew from law school, Walter Rowland, rounded out the rent-controlled tenant list. In those days, the more women you could invite to a party, the more chances you had of meeting someone extraordinary. In their first blockbuster I convinced Bob to invite BB Brotherston. I told him, “Bob, she’s perfect for you. Just invite her, and you’re going to marry her and be a very lucky man.” (He did.) The third roommate, Walter, introduced Richard to Christina, his future wife, on another occasion.

Christina and Richard made a wonderful couple. He was interested in the business aspect of each of his clients, such as Inspiration Resource Corp., a very large mining company, as well as numerous other corporate clients. Eventually, he was hired by Bessemer Trust and Bessemer Securities as their General Counsel. The couple’s daughter, Allison, was raised in a milieu of a cultural business and academic New York world.

When one would engage in a discussion about complicated social issues such as global warming, free trade, tax rates, etc., Richard would say, “Perhaps you would be interested in something I read,” and hand you a 50-page complicated, incomprehensible, seminal discussion of the topic. You could say you finished it and understood it. You sensed there was more to the question than you thought possible.

It’s sadly true that approximately one-third of our classmates have died as of this point (Fall, ’23). One can tell a lot about a person by the way he dies. Richard suffered for a long time. He grew thinner and ever more quiet, but he remained crystal clear mentally, until he entered hospice. He was cared for so lovingly by Christina. He continued to read the many books in his library. He dreamed of the many countries he visited with Christina and Allison. He very much treasured his media-savvy son-in-law Ed O’Keefe, who was interested in books, and he was adored by his grandchildren, Elsa (12) and Alton (7).

I invited Christina and Richard to join Paul Torop and many of his other friends to attend the most recent Yale reunion, in 2022. Richard smiled, and of course I knew he didn’t have the strength to attend. Instead of retreating into himself, however, he and Christina decided on an amazing gift to Yale of books that he so dearly loved, for the Library of Conservation.

So what did he leave? He left a legacy to all of us, to be continued by his family and his wife Christina, his bride of 49 years. He left an example for all of us remaining in the class of ’62.