PINE BLUFF, AR – Dr. Lawrence A. Davis Jr., chancellor emeritus of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and the son of longtime president of the preceding Arkansas AM&N College, has died. He was 85.
The University announced his passing on Sunday, eight days after he attended the University’s annual homecoming festivities.
Davis Jr. grew up living on AM&N campus, where he attended primary and secondary school before graduating from Merrill High School in the Pine Bluff School District in 1954.
His father, L.A. “Prexy” Davis Sr., was president of AM&N College from 1943 until 1972, when the college merged with the University of Arkansas System and became the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. At the age of 28, he became the youngest college presidents in the United States. Davis Sr., retired after becoming the first chancellor of the University.
Davis Jr. taught mathematics and physics at Mississippi Valley State University and NASA before returning to UAPB to become a professor. He became chancellor of UAPB in 1991, and remained in the role until his retirement in May 2012. Serving the institution for 21 years, making him one of the longest-serving chancellors of any Arkansas university. Davis told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2011, “It really in my blood, it’s who I am, this is my home…”
During his tenure, Davis made UAPB athletics one of his many platforms with the institution, and made many strides in the advancement and promotion of various athletic programs the university operates. A new football stadium and adjoining field house was contracted and completed, as well as the baseball complex and the UAPB soccer field. Davis led the university through a period of academic growth and spearheaded the program throughout the university. He also led the renovation and construction of on-campus housing.
In 2012, Dr. Davis was induced into the SWAC Hall of Fame, and in 2018, he was inducted into the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame.
“What a trailblazer and pioneer of the HBCU space we have lost, indeed. Dr. Davis’s legacy has been inspirational and has impacted many lives throughout his career. If you know me, you know that I admire Davis’ legacy tremendously. Both Davis Sr. and Jr. were well-respected leaders, and I truly appreciate their contributions to our Dear Mother,” said Demetrius Johnson Jr., Founder, President & CEO at HBCU Campaign Fund. “Relatively, Dr. Davis and I have both served at Mississippi Valley State and UAPB. So Dr. Davis’s higher ed career footsteps are very special in heart to me. The gifts of Dr. Davis will forever be a long-standing treasure of UAPB, and we will always cherish his warmhearted spirit. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Davis family, friends, and UAPB community during this time of sorrow.”
In 2021, HCF announced the creation of the Dr. Lawrence A. Davis Jr. Trailblazers of Higher Education Award among The Ten Most Dominant HBCU Leaders. This honor recognizes a current or retiring chancellor or president that serves an HBCU or MSI that upholds decade-long value and contributions to the field of higher education. Former Hampton University President Dr. William R. Harvey, AAMU President Dr. Andrew Hugine Jr., and Dr. Davis were the first honorees to receive such honor.