John M. Davis, a lifetime of service, a century of memories

Ruth and John M. Davis - Contributed photo
Ruth and John M. Davis
— image credit: Contributed photo

John MacDougall Davis’ imprint on Seattle and Mercer Island is impressive. In addition to being the founder of Davis, Wright, Tremaine law firm, he served as chief counsel to Seattle First-National Bank.

Mr. Davis was also a president of the Mountaineers, editor of Freedom of the Hills, and a Director Emeritus of the Pacific Science Center.

He and his late wife Ruth raised six children on the Island where he served on the school board for many years.

When President Obama’s mother (Stanley Ann Dunham) graduated from MIHS in 1960 it was John Davis who handed her a diploma.

Mr. Davis turns 100 on Feb. 20.

Q: What childhood memories do you have of Mercer Island?

A. My parents bought a waterfront lot on the north end of Mercer Island and built a small home on it two years before I was born. When I was six years old, we moved to Spokane for my father’s work with the Federal Reserve Bank. Every year, we’d spend the summer in “paradise.”

On Mercer Island we were free to roam the lakeshore trails and the uncharted forests of the island. There were farms, dairies, and orchards. We rented rowboats for a nickel per week from Fortuna Park (now Covenant Shores) and fished for trout, perch, bluegill, and bass. We played “sponge tag” with neighbor kids at McGilvra Dock. We picked our fill of the wild blackberries. Our mother bought our berries for 5 cents a pint.

Q: What opportunities and/or challenges did you have as a young man that paved the way for your future success in business?

A: The Boy Scouts taught me self-reliance and responsibility. I became an Eagle Scout at the age of 13 years old. In high school and at the University of Washington I took a wide variety of challenging courses.

My impaired vision prevented me from enlisting during WWII, but I was determined to serve my country. I worked as an accountant and management assistant in a shipyard building new supply ships for the Navy.

During the Great Depression, I saw vast numbers of out-of-work men, dressed up for interviews and desperate for jobs. They lived in shantys in Hooverville, where SODO is today. I determined to do whatever necessary to be employed.

Q: As you look back on a century of life, what accomplishments give you a sense of satisfaction?

A: I charted my own path in the legal profession, keeping both my integrity and freedom of action. Our firm, DavisWrightTremaine, now has several offices in the United States and Asia.

My wife and I raised our six children to contribute to our world in  meaningful ways. To that end we climbed mountains, boated into Canadian waters, built cabins, and dug geoducks.

As a scoutmaster I led a 50 mile hike in the Olympic Mountains each summer. When I became a member of the Mountaineers, my wife Ruth and I climbed the six highest peaks of Washington together. I was President of the Mountaineers and climbed Mt. Rainier with four of my children.

I enjoyed offering my professional skills to assist boards of not-for-profit organizations in our area such as the School Board, the Pacific Science Center, Whitman College, The Mountaineers, Gilbert and Sullivan and the Seattle Symphony.

Q: What value system has navigated your 100 years of life?

A: The Boy Scout oath provided a framework for me when I was young. My life creed flows from it.

Do the best you can do with your unique talents.

Get a good education and keep learning all your life.

Work hard, challenging yourself to your highest capacity.

Be true to yourself retaining your integrity in all things.

Serve your fellow citizens to the best of your ability.

Explore the miracle of creation and your own place in it.

Acknowledge God’s blessings in your life.

A celebration for John M. Davis

A celebration of Mr. Davis’ many contributions to our community will be held between 3 and 5 p.m. , Sunday , March 2, at the  Keewaydin Clubhouse ( aka the VFW Hall) at the corner N. Mercer Way and 72nd Avenue S.E.

The public is invited.


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