Elon mourns passing of Elon Law Founding Dean Leary Davis
F. Leary Davis, Jr. led efforts from 2004-2008 to launch Elon University School of Law in downtown Greensboro and earn it provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association at the earliest possible date.
A North Carolina legal educator who conducted the feasibility study for establishing Elon University School of Law before serving as its founding dean has died following an illness.
Dean and Professor Emeritus F. Leary Davis, Jr. passed away July 20, 2017, at UNC Hospitals. He is survived by his wife, Joy, along with his three adult children, and six grandchildren.
“Leary Davis was a true pioneer for Elon University School of Law and the North Carolina legal profession," said Elon University President Leo M. Lambert. "He was a lawyer-educator with a passion for his profession, a commitment to his students and a vision for establishing a law school with a difference. As we mourn his loss and celebrate his life, I take comfort in knowing that his spirit carries forward in the work of alumni who are using their Elon Law education in service to their clients and communities.”
Respected and admired for his extraordinary contributions to the legal profession, upon being named Elon Law’s founding dean in 2005, Davis was the only known educator to have founded two different schools of law. He recruited to campus distinguished law professors who pioneered Elon Law’s mission to graduate lawyer-leaders.
As founding dean, Davis welcomed a charter class that would graduate in 2009, shortly after Elon Law had received provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association at the earliest possible date for a new law school.
The Elon University Board of Trustees honored Davis by naming the dean's conference room in his honor and commissioning a portrait of him for that room. On June 27, 2009, the North Carolina Bar Association also honored Davis with the Judge John J. Parker Award, the association's highest honor.
Before joining Elon Law, Davis helped found the Campbell University School of Law in 1975 and served as dean until 1986. Courses he developed and taught won numerous awards. He was active throughout his career in the American Bar Association, North Carolina Bar Association, the North Carolina State Bar and in community and statewide civic projects.
Davis also was a member of the Governor's Commission on the Future of North Carolina, and a board member of BarCARES of North Carolina and the Raleigh Business and Technology Center. Additioanlly, he served on the North Carolina Chief Justice's Commission on Professionalism Judicial Response Committee.
Davis founded and served as president of the National Institute to Enhance Leadership and Law Practice, a nonprofit organization that attracted national attention through research on trends in the legal profession and the elements of lawyer competence. He chaired The Davis Consulting Group and directed the Institute to Study the Practice of Law and Socioeconomic Development, for which he organized a national conference for law professors on planning and management competence.
Prior to his career in legal education, Davis practiced law in Zebulon and Raleigh, N.C. and was assistant prosecutor for Wake County District Court (1968-69) and Town Attorney for the Town of Zebulon (1969-76). He was a member of the U.S. Army Reserve and North Carolina National Guard for seven years, serving as a helicopter pilot and Officer Candidate School tactical officer.
Davis received North Carolina's Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award while in law practice and in 2003 received the American Bar Association's E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award on behalf of the Professionalism Development Program he developed at Campbell.
After returning to the faculty of Elon Law, where he continued to teach, Davis served in 2009 as Visiting Senior Legal Fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership’s Colorado Springs campus, and in 2010 as acting executive director of Karamah, Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights in Washington, D.C.
Davis earned his bachelor's and law degrees from Wake Forest University and an LL.M., the master of laws degree, from Columbia University, where he was a Dayton Hudson Fellow.