A Chatham Hero: Paul Davis

Paul davis
Paul Westley Davis
Paul Westley Davis was born on March 1, 1957 to John Westley and Shirley Ann Davis in Chicago, Illinois. As the oldest son of five, Paul thrived during his upbringing in the Parkway Gardens community and his current family home in Chatham.
Paul, ever restless and bursting with energy, often recalled his childhood as a great one where he couldn’t wait to go outside to play after school. He attended Dulles Elementary School, where he served as Principal for the Day in fall 2010. He was a Boy Scout, and his parents engaged him in a number of civic activities, such as collecting donations for Misericordia, and working in Sixth and Eighth Ward politics. Paul loved his community and the people in it.
As an accomplished athlete, Paul always moved with swiftness. Nicknamed “Jet,” he was a Hirsch High School and Simpson College (Iowa) track and football star (wide receiver, No. 13). His events were the 60- and 100-yard dashes, the 440 and relays. In 1980, Paul was invited to compete in the Olympic trials.
Paul loved God and his church, Stony Island Church of Christ. He faithfully attended Sunday School and Wednesday night Bible classes, and he administered communion, always delivering prayers and scriptures with an earnest, humble heart.
More than anything, Paul loved his family. He was the good son, tending to his parents’ needs whenever they called. He moved back home in 2006 to help his mother care for his ailing father. Even before then, he spent Saturdays, hanging out with his father, who liked to call him “Pappy.” Paul was the ultimate big brother, too. He hosted bid whist nights in his home where his brothers, many childhood friends, including Ronnie and Phil, and his late Uncle Lawrence would trash-talk well into the night having good, clean fun. Many people in Chicago and across the country call the gregarious, playful Paul their friend.
Paul Davis was an accomplished political strategist, public relations guru, social justice activist and a great communicator. He was the youngest member of Mayor Harold Washington’s cabinet, having served as Washington’s press secretary during his service in Congress and being a vital member of his mayoral campaign inner circle. In fact, getting Washington elected was a Davis family affair, as Paul’s parents were key players, fundraisers and volunteers in changing Chicago history.
Most recently, Paul launched his own public relations and advocacy firm, First Trace Communications Inc. (“Trace” is an homage to his little brother Tracy who preceded him in death.) As president, Paul relished the opportunity to spread positive public health messages on behalf of clients, such as the Gift of Hope. He cultivated a longtime association with the Amalgamated Transit Union, helping public transit workers get their message across in the halls of power, AFLAC, John and Todd Stroger, and the Georgia Doty Health Education Fund. He created the Kidney Informational Consortium, which debuted in 2010 during a symposium at Chicago State University. The consortium aimed to bring health care providers, policy experts and community members together to address the prevalence of kidney disease and related conditions in underserved communities. He even advocated for prostate cancer testing, as his father successfully fought and lived with the disease for two decades before he succumbed in 2008.
Paul was hooked on campaigns. The opportunity to make a difference drove his passion to manage political races for the likes of Congressman Danny K. Davis, Dan Hynes for governor, and the mayoral campaigns of Dorothy Brown, Bob Fioretti and the Rev. Paul Jakes. He itched to work on Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.’s 2011 campaign but wisely chose to focus full-time on his health. Paul also worked on numerous suburban campaigns, from Thaddeus Jones’ in Calumet City to Brenda Thompson’s bids to become mayor of Harvey. And of course, as a young buck, fresh out of college, he rode in the car with Washington, learning from a master. Indeed, Paul ultimately became the go-to guy for all that is politics and strategy.
Paul Davis came out the gate as a leader, consummate manager and firm coach. He served as vice president of Danielle Ashley Advertising and Public Relations; vice president of Human Resources Development Institute (HRDI); managing editor of Citizen Newspapers; general superintendent of the City of Chicago Bureau of Forestry; and press secretary to Harold Washington. He managed a $10 million budget as forestry chief.
As a community activist, Paul worked with the Citywide Coalition Against Tobacco-Alcohol Billboards in the ’80s with Henry Mandrake Brown, Paul Kelly, Arthur Pickney and Kwesi Ron Harris to ban cigarette and alcohol billboards on the South Side and stand up against environmental racism. He was so firm in his commitment, he would never take a client who purveyed these goods; he never smoked nor drank. In 2011, he campaigned with his godson Roman Morrow and the Rev. Jakes to urge radio stations to curtail playing music infused with violent, profane and misogynist language. The team was successful is getting Clear Channel Communications to agree to a covenant to move salacious music to late-night hours and to air disclaimers to alert families and children of unsavory content.
Paul was key to the creation and financial foundation of the Black Public Relations Society of Chicago (BPRS), and a beloved and vital member of the national chapter. Within the organization and throughout his profession, his mentorship was sought, and his public speaking talents were in high demand. He held the hands of many young public relations and communications professionals, showing them the ropes, helping them to gain foothold in their chosen vocation.
Paul Davis was a man among people who was always about the people. His purpose was his passion, and wherever he chose to expend his energy, it was never just business — but it was always personal.
He is survived by this mother, Shirley; brothers, Michael (Connie) and Glenn (Rosalind); sister, Cheryl Lynn; nephews Glenn, Mike Jr., Marcus and Brian; nieces, Whitney and Tiffany; uncle Fred Perry; aunts, Doris Carter, Gertrude Bloom (Larry) and Mildred Love; and a host of great nephews and nieces, and cousins. Paul’s father preceded him in death.

The arragements are as follows:

Saturday, May 19, 2012
Stony Island Church of Christ
1600 E. 84th St., Chicago, Illinois
Wake: 10 a.m.
Funeral: 11 a.m.
A.A. Rayner is handling arrangements: (773) 846-6133


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  • My condolences to Paul's family and to all who knew and loved him. Whenever a magnanimous person like Paul passes, I think of the words of the British poet Stephen Spender:

    "Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields
    See how these names are feted by the waving grass,
    And by the streamers of white cloud,
    And whispers of wind in the listening sky;
    The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
    Who wore at their hearts the fire's center,
    Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun,
    And left the vivid air signed with their honor."

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