Photographs of James Davey are attached at Tab 1. 1
ORAL HISTORY OF
JAMES F. DAVEY 1
Session #1 – May 13, 2008
This interview is being conducted on behalf of the Oral History Project of the Historical Society
of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewee is James F. Davey. The interviewer is
Steven P. Hollman. The interview was conducted by telephone on May 13, 2008, commencing at
Mr. Hollman: I thought I’d start by just going over what I understand to be the basic chronology
and asking you to fill in significant events that I’ve missed.
Mr. Davey: Okay.
Mr. Hollman: Alright, so we’re going to start in 1935, and I have as your birth date September
Mr. Davey: Right.
Mr. Hollman: And where were you born?
Mr. Davey: Parris Island, South Carolina, the marine base. My father was a naval officer, and
he was stationed there at the time.
Mr. Hollman: What was your father’s rank at the time?
Mr. Davey: Well, let’s see in ’35 — he was a 1927 graduate of the Naval Academy — he’s
probably a lieutenant jg. I’m not sure of that.
Mr. Hollman: Did he serve then in World War II?
Mr. Davey: He did.
Mr. Hollman: And where did he serve? Was he on a boat?
Mr. Davey: He actually had the smallest aircraft in the fleet. The service started, well — he
got out of the academy in ’27, and in ‘41 when I was six, we were stationed at
Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. And on December 7th, ’41, we heard some noises
and went outside, my older brother and I, and it turned out it was Japanese planes.
Mr. Hollman: Your were at Pearl Harbor when the Harbor was bombed?
Mr. Davey: Yeah, the Arizona, my older brother and I went back 50 years later in ’91, and our
house was still there. And the Arizona was two battleship-lengths away from our
house. If you ever look at the picture of Pearl Harbor, Ford Island is a small
island that the battleships were docked at, and my father was entitled to officers’
quarters. Well, we went out to that field behind our house, and we saw these
Japanese planes that had come in low to drop their torpedoes just going over the
top of the house looking down at us through their open cockpits. And then, ah,
well we could talk about Pearl Harbor for a while, but you’re talking to a guy that
was wounded in the first hour of World War II.
Mr. Hollman: What was the wound?
Mr. Davey: Well, when the Arizona blew up, my hearing, it was a tremendous explosion, and
I never had good hearing. I can’t prove that, but it’s a good story. But well, I
remember particular events there; my older brother who was nine has a better
recollection. But I remember our father putting us under the mattresses once he
got us back inside the house. And the attack was in two waves, and in the lull
between the first and second wave, my father got us into the car and took us to the
Admiral’s house at the end of the island. It had a big dungeon underneath it. And
they set up a first aid operation and a shelter operation there. And I can
remember them bringing the men in that had swam through the burning oil. And
it was a tough thing for kids to see, and then we didn’t know whether we were
going to be attacked. It was really chaotic there for a while.
Mr. Hollman: Well, I was going to ask you about the most significant event of your childhood,
and I think you’ve eclipsed anything that my wildest imagination probably could
have come up with.
Mr. Davey: Yeah, well, that was quite a day, and we have a little sake around here every
December 7 .
Mr. Hollman: Tell me the names of your parents.
Mr. Davey: My mother was Catherine, the baby, and my father was Thomas, Thomas Leo
Mr. Hollman: And where were they from?
Mr. Davey: Catherine was from New York, and my father was from Beverly Farms,
Massachusetts. They met while he was getting a master’s degree at RPI in New
York, and she was going to Russell Sage. And they met and got married, and
they had four children: my older brother, Tom, born in Pennsylvania in ’33; my
sister, Catherine, who was born in Newport, Rhode Island in ’34. I was born in
South Carolina, Parris Island, in ’35. In ’36, my sister died on her way to San
Diego of convulsions. I think she was overcome by the heat in the car in Texas.
She died in El Paso. And then my younger brother was born in San Diego in
1937, and the one with the three boys survived, and we’re all still around today.
Mr. Hollman: What’s the name of the younger brother?
Mr. Davey: John.
Mr. Hollman: What a trauma that must have been to suffer the loss of your younger sister.
Mr. Davey: Yeah, my mother said that my father never really got over that. That would be a
terrible — I don’t even like to think of losing one of my children.
The Seabees are the Construction Battalions (CBs) of the United States Navy. The Seabees 2
have a history of building bases, bulldozing and paving thousands of miles of roadway and
airstrips, and accomplishing myriad other construction projects in a wide variety of military
theatres dating back to World War II.
Landing Ship, Tank (LST) was the military designation for naval vessels created during 3
World War II to support amphibious operations by carrying significant quantities of vehicles,
cargo, and landing troops directly onto an unimproved shore.
Mr. Hollman: Tell me what it was like growing up in a house with a Navy man as a father and
with two other brothers.
Mr. Davey: Well, the years that I remember growing up mostly were in Rhode Island. After
Pearl Harbor and once they got control of the seas, they got us dependents home
to the mainland. I still have my lifeboat pass and my seat number and lifeboat
number. My father was stationed in Rhode Island, and he was part of the
founding of the Seabees during War World II. He was a civil engineer. So, we 2
grew up in Rhode Island. My father went off to the campaigns, and he supported
the invasion of North Africa. And then he was involved in the invasion in Italy
and getting my — I’d have to double check — Salerno — and I remember him
writing a note that indicated that he had the smallest aircraft in the fleet because
he had outfitted an LST to have three spotter planes for Patton’s army on the top, 3
and he had mules down below where the men would normally be located. He was
quite proud of the fact that he had rigged this LST to be an aircraft carrier. But he
ended up seeing quite a bit of action. And unfortunately, we never saw much of
him growing up. My mother had to raise the three of us with my maternal
grandmother, who was an invalid. I saw my father only maybe once or twice
between the age of 7 and 35. So — but that being said, growing up in Rhode
Major General John M. Davey was born in San Diego in 1937 and graduated from La Salle 4
Academy High School, Providence, R.I. He received a bachelor’s degree in military science from
the first graduating class of the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1959 and a master of science degree
in business through the Air Force Institute of Technology program from the University of
Rochester in 1970. The general was a distinguished graduate of the Naval War College in 1979.
He retired September 1, 1993. http://www.af.mil/bios/bio.asp?bioID=5164
Island in the ‘40s and ‘50s in our small, little world, I remember having just a
normal childhood and having a good time.
We were spaced — the boys were spaced a couple of years apart so we
had different groups that we were involved in. My older brother and I were more
athletically inclined, and my younger brother — we worried about him — he
sang in the choir and played the violin. He ended up being in the first graduating
class of the Air Force Academy, flew fighter jets off carriers in Vietnam and
ended up being a two-star general. So, he worked out pretty good. But we had 4
just a — I have fond memories of growing up and playing war and having dogs
and, you know, just nothing spectacular. I think the most important person
influencing me was my maternal grandmother. Loved opera and loved the Red
Sox and loved working on the New York Times crossword puzzle. She was
somebody that I could go to for advice.
Mr. Hollman: You said Beverly Farms, Massachusetts. I’m trying to place that in —
Mr. Davey: Beverly is on the North Shore. My paternal grandparents were — my
grandmother was a cook for a well-to-do family, and my grandfather was a
landscaper for them. Beverly Farms is a small town near Beverly.
Mr. Hollman: Let me take you back to Pearl Harbor, if I could, and have you describe in more
detail what it was like to experience the Japanese attack and how that affected
your outlook on things, if it did.
Mr. Davey: Well, I called them Japs for many years. Being six I can’t say that I have a full
recollection, but I remember going out and seeing the planes. I remember the
ships blowing up. I remember being scared, being under the mattresses. I
remember seeing those men who had swam through the burning oil. And then I
remember they shipped us to a different island.
But in terms of the impact on me as a kid growing up, really not much.
It’s—then in the later years where we’ve enjoyed telling the story. In fact, one of
the stories is that when we got to Rhode Island and my father was shipped
overseas, that we no longer were entitled to officers’ quarters, so we ended up in a
duplex, which was small compared to what we had in Hawaii and on the base in
Rhode Island. So we had wooden crates that never really got unpacked. And as
we grew up we began to wonder what was in these wooden crates down in the
One day my mother and my older brother and I were down there going
through them, and we came across this waffle iron, big, heavy iron waffle iron,
and it was stuck closed. So my brother got a screwdriver and opened it up, and
there was a perfectly preserved waffle that had – that my mother was cooking that
morning on December 7 , ’41, and this — oh, I guess — 15 years later. And my th
older brother still has that, and he has a little show — you know, he goes around
to the high schools. And the waffle has deteriorated through the years because of
exposure to the air but it is still there, and I’m the executor to his estate, and if he
predeceases me, the only thing that I want is the waffle iron. Actually, it should
go somewhere in the Smithsonian or whatever.
But in growing up, you know, it was interesting telling stories, but it’s
been more from telling about it as you get older. But it didn’t really have a big
impact. I think frankly the biggest impact came later when I began to wonder
what happened to the old man. But this came in my high school years and in
college. I got out of high school — actually I joined the Marines but I couldn’t —
I was only 17 at the time. This was ’53, and it was — September 19 was my th
birthday, and I needed both parents to sign for me. And my father was no place
In any event, I ended up going back and landing on Parris Island on my
18 birthday. But then I failed the medical. I had had asthma — I told the th
recruiter I had asthma. He said, no problem, but once I got down there they said
it is a problem. So I was honorably discharged for medical reasons. And I
decided to go down to Florida seeking fame and fortune and went broke and had
to come back to Rhode Island. I worked construction.
Finally, I decided maybe I better go to college. So I became a commuter
to the University of Rhode Island. Worked a couple of jobs going through there.
I enjoyed the college years but not in a typical sense — you know, no fraternity
and all that. Then, in fact, at our 50 high school reunion, they presented me with th
a letter that I had written a high school buddy that had gone out to Iowa after high
school, and this was May of ’58 when I was getting out of college. And I wrote
him, I said, Hey, Larry, I’m getting out of college next month, and I’m not sure
what I’m going to do. But maybe I’ll get a car and drive out to California, and if I
do, I’ll stop by, and we can get together, have a good time like we did in the old
days. I’m really not worried about getting a job because I may have told you
about this girl in an earlier letter. I think we’re probably going to get married.
And she’s got a job making $4,000 a year, and that ought to be enough. Highly
motivated a month after getting out of college.
Mr. Hollman: Was the woman, Carmelita Triga, your wife?
Mr. Davey: Yeah, it was.
Mr. Hollman: Well, you had very good judgment, at least, back then.
Mr. Davey: Yes. But I’m wandering.
Mr. Hollman: Well, tell me first how you met your wife, because I can’t resist asking you that,
and then I’m going to take you back again.
Mr. Davey: Okay. You know there’s a dispute between us as to how I met her, but I think it
was at a bar where she was hanging out with some Navy guys from — my older
brother had gone into the Navy as a seaman, and he was stationed at Quonset
Point Naval Air Station. And there was a bunch of guys in the squadron, and they
used to go to a place, and Connie – in fact, my older brother dated my wife’s
older sister. And he told me one time, he says, you ought to check out Rosita’s
younger sister, which I did. My recollection is that we met in this bar — not that
we were drunk or anything, but that, you know, you just go and have drinks. And
when I first saw her, she looked like somebody special, and that was in ’56, my
sophomore year in college, and she was going to a different school. But we
started dating, and then we got married in 1960.
Mr. Hollman: Where were you married?
Mr. Davey: Married in Rhode Island at her church where she got her first communion — her
baptism, first communion, confirmation, and she was married there, Sacred Heart
in Westfall, Rhode Island.
Mr. Hollman: Did you all have a religious tradition in the Davey family?
Mr. Davey: We did. Very religious. I can remember kneeling — as I say, my maternal
grandmother, she had heart problems, and back then they didn’t do much
exercise. And she died in ’56. So we got there in ’42, and in 14 years she may
have come downstairs a half a dozen times.
So you know, you look at that and say, jeez, what a terrible burden to have
somebody like that, but she was just the opposite. In fact, almost every night I’d
sit in her rocking chair and I’d read. And it’s a good way of remembering
“Giema.” And she was, as I say, an extremely positive force. We would kneel
down and say the prayers, the nightly prayers, and sometimes we’d say the rosary.
And I remember my first exposure to death was Giema. She had gotten an
infection and somehow we knew she was close to death. And she died in that
room up there with a priest. And I remember that being so peaceful. So, this was
’56, so I guess I was 21 years old. My first encounter with death was not tragic at
all. It was, you know, very peaceful. So we — I was an altar boy and my
brothers were altar boys. And my mother retained her Catholic faith and never
divorced my father. So the religion was strong.
Mr. Hollman: Tell me the full name of your maternal grandmother.
Mr. Davey: Mary Elizabeth Timpane.
Mr. Hollman: And tell me what sort of life philosophy she imparted to you.
Mr. Davey: A variety of things. I think the most important thing — I’m not so sure it was life
philosophy as it was somebody that I could talk to and give me guidance. My
mother was so, you know — she had all this — you know, when you look back at
it, here was a woman who was married to an officer going up the ranks, and she
was born in 1904. So, in ’42 she was 38 years old, and she was married to a naval
officer. They had already lost their only daughter. And I think what did it was he
came home from leave, and he had picked up a venereal disease. And I can
remember them arguing and that was, that did it for my mom. My mom was —
you know, so she ended up having to raise three boys and take care of her mother,
and that was quite a life change from what her expectations were. I didn’t fully
appreciate that at the time, you know? But she was a positive influence, although
I had problems with her from time to time. But my maternal grandmother was
just somebody wise that had a sense of humor, that taught me how to play cards,
was interested in baseball, and, you know, still on the intellectual side. She just
seemed like a good person to emulate that had a wide variety of interests and
always seemed pleasant. You’d never know anything was wrong with her.
Mr. Hollman: That’s quite something for someone who was sort of confined to an upstairs room
for most of her life.
Mr. Davey: Yeah. She’s amazing. She came from good stock, I have to tell you. Her sister
ended up being a Mother Superior, with Sisters of Mercy, and in her later years,
we would visit her in Hartford. And she got to be, I think, 92. And when she was
90, she had a heart attack, and they did CPR on her and brought her back. And
when we went to visit her, she was very frail in a wheelchair. One of the things
that I remember too about her — now this was my maternal grandmother’s sister
— was we visited her, and she was always happy and pleasant, but strong.
You’ve got to be strong to be a Mother Superior. But what struck me was when
we went to her room, all of her possessions — she had one chest of drawers, she
had a small radio, a cross, and that was her total worldly possessions, and yet she
seemed to get along okay. But in any event, when she was in the wheelchair after
the heart attack, I visited her. She got real close to me. She said, “Jimmy, all my
life I’ve been preparing to be with God, and I was with him, and these turkeys
brought me back.” But then she was gone in six months. But between the two of
them, they didn’t have much, but, boy, they just didn’t need much, and they gave
a lot. They were very positive.
Mr. Hollman: That’s sort of a nice life statement that they didn’t have much and didn’t need
much but gave a lot.
Mr. Davey: Yeah, yeah.
Mr. Hollman: Who was the male influence for you growing up?
Mr. Davey: Um, that was one of my problems. I didn’t have any that I respected. [Laughter]
I would always get in fights with my older brother, and my dad wasn’t there. I
did have, it wasn’t that I was — when I was in high school, I got hired by a guy
that ran a small grocery store, and he was a positive influence. He gave me — I
ended up being able to — they were able to take their first vacation, he and his
wife, who ran the store, after I had worked there a couple of years. They had
enough trust in me to run the place while they were gone. And it was a good
influence. My high school principal, I didn’t have any real respect for, um, twofaced. So, I don’t know if you’d say I had issues with males, but I didn’t have a
strong male influence growing up.
Mr. Hollman: Tell me what it was like being the middle child in a family of three boys.
Mr. Davey: I never thought of myself as a middle child. I just remember that I had my own
circle of friends. And I did think, maybe sometimes I felt left out that Tom was,
by virtue of his being the oldest, getting his share and then my mother did have a
special affinity with my younger brother. In, fact she took him out of public
school so he wouldn’t end up like his two older brothers and put him in LaSalle.
And the teachers at the public school were happy that they didn’t have to deal
with another Davey. We had our — I wasn’t a felon, but I did have my share of
run-ins with authority, let’s put it that way.
Mr. Hollman: Probably comes with the territory for young boys at that age.
Mr. Davey: Yeah, yeah.
Mr. Hollman: You said you were athletic; what were your sports?
Mr. Davey: Baseball and basketball. I liked football but that, I had asthma and my asthma
would really be an issue in the fall when the ragweed season, between the
ragweed and the house dust I was wheezing most of September and October. But
I played high school JV and varsity basketball and baseball for a Class C team,
small school and I was good. I think the highest I ever made was, maybe second,
second string, all Class C in baseball and honorable mention in basketball. But it
was — I enjoyed it, and it’s something that I’ve continued to do. In fact, I played
softball last night.
Mr. Hollman: No kidding.
Mr. Davey: Yeah, I can’t play basketball anymore. I’ve got arthritis in my knee. But, yeah,
in fact, I brought out my new bat that I just spent $200 bucks for and my first at
bat popped out. With runners at second and third, and my buddy that I ride with,
he had a bad night, too. He had been hitting about 800, and he was 0 for 3. And
we were kinda moaning and groaning at the night, and we got beat by a team that
doesn’t win a lot.
[END TAPE 1, Side A]
With him going 0 for 3 and me going 1 for 3, you know, put it in perspective.
Mr. Hollman: Well, if you grew up as a Red Sox fan then you’re no stranger to adversity.
Mr. Davey: Oh, you’re damn right. I went out to Fenway Park for seven decades. I’ve been
going out there for seven decades, would you believe that? I started going out in
the ‘40s. My buddy, Al Drexel, and I would hitchhike up and we’d have maybe a
couple of bucks and, you know, sit in the bleachers for fifty cents and get a couple
of hot dogs. In fact, as we speak, I’m looking at a metal soldier that Al Drexel
gave me last year. Al was my buddy, ’42 to ‘46 in the projects. It was Yorktown
Manor and in, before December ‘41, it was after Thanksgiving, his mother for
Christmas got him a bunch of metal soldiers. And then when the war came, you
couldn’t use metal anymore so these were the last of the metal soldiers. They
turned them into clay after that. And I’ve got one, I’ve got a nice box and a frame
and stuff. And that brings back a fond memory. In any event —
Mr. Hollman: And what happened to Al Drexel? Is he still around?
Mr. Davey: He’s still, he still, uh, he’s still around. In fact I’m the executor of his estate, and
I’m going to get a couple of more soldiers. I’m going to end up with a waffle iron
from my brother and a couple of metal soldiers from Al, if I survive them.
Mr. Hollman: That’s the benefit of having good longevity genes.
Mr. Davey: There you go, there you go. But we were talking about sports and sports have
always been big with me. I can’t play basketball anymore or play touch football.
I used to run, and I’ve run the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. I don’t
run anymore but I walk and still like to ski and being physically active has been a
big part of my life.
Mr. Hollman: I think that’s a wonderful thing and a wonderful thing to carry with you
throughout your life.
Mr. Davey: Yes, yeah you’ve only got one body and got to take care of it.
Mr. Hollman: Did you follow professional teams as a youngster?
Mr. Davey: Followed the Red Sox and the Celtics. In fact, during World War II, the service
teams were better than the major league teams. I remember the Boston Braves
when they used to, before they became the Milwaukee Braves and the Atlanta
Braves, they would come to Quonset, and my older brother and I were bat boys.
And I remember Mort and Walker Cooper, you probably don’t remember them.
Mort Cooper was a pitcher and Walker, his brother, was a catcher, and they
played for the Braves. And the Flyers would beat them more often than not.
‘Cause the Quonset team, the Boston Flyers had a lot of — I can’t remember any
of their names, but they had a lot of good guys like that Ted Williams and Joe
DiMaggio, ended up in the service and they didn’t all, they suited up now and
One of my most prized possessions is, let’s see what this says: “Jim Davey Cy
Young Award, 50 and over, Red Sox Fantasy Camp, February 1996.” How about
that? When I was 60, my wife gave me a present to the Red Sox Fantasy Camp,
and I had a wonderful time there. I’ll tell you two stories. One, I suited up next
to Bobby Doerr every day. He’s a Hall of Famer, and he didn’t play but he suited
up. And, in fact, I wore my Red Sox pants all last night. It was kind of chilly
down here. They end up, they let you have the uniform. But two things. One, or
the other thing, the pitcher in 19 — I tell you let’s go back, in ‘86, what was it ‘86
against the Mets, right? That was the ‘70s? I’m getting a little bit confused. We
lost to St. Louis in ’46. We lost to them again in ’67. In ’76, I think it was the
Reds, or was it ’86, um, I’d have to check. In any event, when the ball went
through Buckner’s leg? Well the pitcher at the time was Bob Stanley. He was a
relief pitcher, and he ended up at my Red Sox Fantasy Camp being our pitcher
one day. And I was playing first base, and a guy hits a ground ball to me, and I
get it and Stanley covers and we get them out and as Stanley’s going back to the
mound I said: “Hey, don’t you wish Billy had done that?” [Laughter] And, well,
we had a great, it was a great week. And in 2004 when they won that was, I
didn’t care if they ever won again. Been a long wait.
Mr. Hollman: All three of you and your two brothers ended up entering the service. And I
wondered if you could just talk about that and what influences caused the three of
you to go in that direction?
Mr. Davey: Well my older brother, we really didn’t have any money and we couldn’t afford
college, so my older brother decided to go into the service and then, you know, he
came out, and under the GI Bill, went to college. It wasn’t any great sense of
patriotism, although it just seemed, you know you did things back then without
really thinking through.
I ended up, I joined the Navy Reserves when I was a senior in high school, and
then when I, my intent was to do what my brother was doing, serve my time in
the service and then go to college under the GI bill. But when I graduated, the
Navy wanted four years out of you and the Marines only wanted three, so this was
during the Korean War. And I didn’t sign up because I wanted to go be a Marine
and fight. It had a three-year term, so that was about it, you know.
But for my younger brother, he always wanted to be a pilot, and he had to join the
Civil Air Patrol, and he took the test for the Naval Academy and the Air Force
Academy. And he was actually accepted at the Naval Academy. But then he was
12th or 13th on the list of those that were, what list this was, I’m not sure whether
it was because my father was a military guy or one of the state reps that
recommended him. I forget. In any event, at the last minute he ended up going
into the Air Force Academy instead of the Naval Academy, and he ended up
being in the first graduating class in the Air Force Academy. So the motivation
for Jack was that he wanted, he always wanted to be a pilot. He turned out to be a
damn good one.
Mr. Hollman: And what was the length of your service in the Marine Corps?
Mr. Davey: About 18 days.
Mr. Hollman: Eighteen days?
Mr. Davey: Eight of that waiting for a discharge. But I have, what really ticked my brothers
off, I look at my wall, I’ve got an Honorable Discharge from the — Private James
Francis Davey, October 6. Now September 19 to October 6, you can figure it out.
And then I also have a Honorable Discharge from the United States Navy,
September 17th, 1953. I guess when I joined the Marines I was honorably
discharged from the Navy so even though I never wore a Navy uniform, I got a
Navy discharge, and my brother served four years of active duty and only got a
separation. [Laughter] Life isn’t fair. I don’t have those discharges prominently
displayed but I, they’re kind of fun.
Mr. Hollman: Did you actually go through any basic training before —
Mr. Davey: Oh, yeah, yeah, in fact I took the OCS exam. I remember the drill instructor
calling my name out and saying: “Damn, you know, you scored the highest on
the exam for OCS, and you failed the medical so, that was kind of a waste.” But
you never, you know, that was disappointing, have to, you know, have to go home
prematurely, and whatever. Nineteen fifty-three was a kind of tough year ‘cause I
failed in the Marines and I failed in Florida. Had to fall back and regroup.
Mr. Hollman: Tell me what you were doing in Florida when you went down there to sort of
make your way.
Mr. Davey: I was going to be a busboy and that’s what I had been in one of my jobs in high
school. And, but I ended up working in an orange packing plant, and I hurt my
back, and I couldn’t work. And then my asthma started to kick up because it was
the fall. I ended up hitchhiking back home and I ran out of money in Durham,
North Carolina. Actually, I had a quarter left and I had my, I was hitchhiking
with my high school letter jacket, you know, so people would pick me up. And I
couldn’t decide with the quarter whether to get some cigarettes or a hamburger,
but I ended up getting cigarettes.
But it was a fall afternoon, and I remembered that one of my high school
classmates, a gal, had enrolled in Duke Nursing. And there was a football game
on that Saturday afternoon. I convinced the bus driver to let me get on the bus
without paying fare, and I got over to the University and it’s a long story about
me trying to find her. And eventually found where she was, but she wasn’t there,
so I had to wait. And finally she showed up with a couple of girlfriends and very
surprised to see me. And I let her know why I was there, and I think between the
three of them they came up with about ten bucks, and I finally made it back to
And so that was, then I started doing odd jobs, construction jobs. I finally
decided that maybe I’d better go to college. But the funny thing, this is — I took
the exams for college, and I went back to my principal who I didn’t have a lot of
respect for. He says, “Oh, I’ll help you out and do what I can.” But everybody
heard about their acceptance in June or whatever, and in July I still hadn’t heard
and I called up the college. And to make a long story short, they said, Well you
have to come down and be interviewed by the Dean of Men, not the Dean of
Admissions but the Dean of Men. So I went down, and I walked in and the guy
said, he’s got this file in front of me, he says, “Hey, you know, you had good
marks, you’re on the Rhode Island Honor Society, not the National Honor Society
but the Rhode Island, and you did well on the exams, but why does your principal
think you’re a bad risk for college?” Oh man, it hit me. So I didn’t know what
the principal had told him so I told him everything I could remember, and he
says: “Well I’ll tell you what, we’re going to let you in, but you’re on probation.
You know if you mess up, you’re out.” And I never messed up. But I never
forgave my principal for being what I’d always thought he was. [Laughter]
Mr. Hollman: Did you ever get a chance to ask him why he, why he did that to you?
Mr. Davey: No I didn’t, but I was going to get an extra copy of my diploma and stick it up his
a__. [Laughter] I never got that opportunity either. No, we didn’t have any
further dealings. In fact, I think he died before I got out of college. I don’t
remember, but —
Mr. Hollman: What a thing to do.
Mr. Davey: I know it, I know it. But it was just, it was typical of him. And you know, it
validated my dislike of him and others in positions of authority.
Mr. Hollman: So, did you have any particular academic interests going into college?
Mr. Davey: No, I had none. And the way I became an accounting major, I commuted, and the
guy that was driving was a year ahead of me and he was an accounting major and
he said he’d let me have his books. So I became an accounting major. And in the
course of my college career I had a course in business law and I had a prof,
Sarkesian. I really aced that course, and he said, told me one day, he said, Hey,
you know, you need to go to law school and you’d do great. And he says, I can,
I’ve got some contacts or made it appear that, you know, if I wanted to, I could
get into BU.
And I told him, I said, Hey, I’ve got no money. And I didn’t. We never
considered ourselves poor, although I do remember one time that the Lions Club
came by to deliver Thanksgiving baskets to the Davey family, and my mother was
too proud to accept it. And I told her, I said you know, we could have at least
taken the pie. But we never, you know, nobody had a lot of money in the
projects. And it was the Yorktown Manor — Yorktown Manor duplexes. But I
don’t recall being deprived, you know what I mean? We didn’t wait in food lines
and all that kind of stuff so that wasn’t, that wasn’t any big deal, it just seemed
like everybody was like we were.
Mr. Hollman: Well said. Did Professor Sarkesian sort of plant the seed that remained with you
for the next 10 years after you graduated from college?
Mr. Davey: He planted the seed, yeah. And then, but then I went, well let’s see, that would
have been ’56, and then I got out in ’58 and got married in ’60, and my wife was
the one that kind of said, you know, you ought to follow through and go to law
school. And I was working down in D.C. for the Department of Agriculture and I
applied, you know. To show you how ignorant I was, I took the test, but I took
the wrong damn test. I took the graduate record exam. To make a long story
short, I finally ended up doing the LSAT, and I got accepted by GW and
American, and I was going to go to GW, and my wife said you ought to wait for
Georgetown and I said, you know, I didn’t have that sort of grades in college.
And, but I did well on the LSAT, I think I was in the 96th percentile, and I think
that’s what did it. And the fact that I was married and was going to go to night
school. So Georgetown finally accepted me, and I went there. Glad I did.
Mr. Hollman: So tell me how you ended up in D.C. after you graduated from the University of
Mr. Davey: I was going to take a job as, I only had two job offers when I got out, one was in
insurance as an internal auditor for insurance in Hartford, Connecticut. And that
would have been right nice. I could, you know, stay in New England, but then
when they found I had, I didn’t pass their medical, the asthma reared its ugly head
again, and they withdrew the job offer when they found out I had asthma.
And so that left me with the only other job offer which was a job with the
U.S. Department of Agriculture as an internal auditor, traveling around auditing
all the different agricultural programs. And after I finished my training period,
they gave me New England as my territory, which was great. But then came
1960, and I wanted to get married. And my supervisor came up to visit me one
time and I told him, I said, Hey Charlie, I really like this work, but I’d like to get
off the road so that I could get married. And he arranged for me to come to D.C.
and take a job as a reviewer of the audit reports prepared by others and doing
some auditing in D.C., and that’s how I came.
Connie and I got married in July of ’60 and moved down to D.C. Then
she got a job teaching down there in Fairfax County, and I continued to work at
the Department of Agriculture while I was going through law school. And then
when I got out of law school, I never had any real desire to be a lawyer, but I
liked the law and I was really challenged at Georgetown. But by the time I got
out of, when I started law school, I had no children and I was a GS-9, I think.
And when I got out of law school I had two children and I was a grade 13. And I
didn’t, I looked around but I didn’t get any job offers. I think I was something
like 150 in my class when we started. I think it was 150 out of 300, very close to
the middle. And then when we graduated four years later I was 75 out of 150. I
had found my niche.
So, but that was ’65, and then in ’65 I got the opportunity to work in the
overseas audit part of the — we had become a larger agency and we were part of
the first Office of the Inspector General in the federal government. USDA had
the first one. And so in ’66 I started my overseas travel and got to spend six
weeks in Rio de Janeiro and Copacabana beach. And then a year later I was
promoted to be in charge of it, and I ended up going to Africa and Israel, Pakistan
and Afghanistan, India and Iran, you know. I can tell you all kinds of war stories
about that period, but the problem there was I had two kids, small kids at home,
and I was gone for six weeks at a time.
So that didn’t work out too well, and so, just by chance I picked up the
Washington Post one morning, and I saw that they were making a, calling for a
study of the D.C. court system ‘cause it was a real mess. And instead of hiring a
management consulting firm, they were going to hire a director that in turn would
hire his own staff, so I thought that this would be a good combination of my
auditing experience and my law education. So I applied and became one of the,
there was about five of us that were in the core group that worked on that study. I
left Agriculture. I got a leave of absence but my boss who let me go said, “We’re
not going to see you again. I’ll keep the position open for a year but — ”
In any event, the study lasted a year, June ’68 to something ’69, and I
ended up, you know, it was the whole court system in the District. The local and
the federal. It was a mess, and we divided up the responsibility, and I ended up
being in charge of studying the administration of the U.S. District Court and the
civil, managing the civil calendar of the U.S. District Court and the Marshal’s
office, and I forget what else I did. But that was, it was right up my alley. As an
auditor, you learn how to find out where the weak spots are, and they weren’t
hard to find.
Mr. Hollman: Jim, I think that’s probably a good place to start out next time because that’s a
fruitful area for many stories.
[This concludes TAPE #1 on May 13th at 11:08]
Photographs of James Davey are attached at Tab 1. 1