Artur Genestre Davis (born October 9, 1967 in West Montgomery) is an attorney, executive director of Legal Services Alabama and former U.S. Congressman who represented the 7th District of Alabama from 2003 to 2011.
Davis was raised by his mother and grandmother after his parents' divorce. He remembers himself as "painfully shy" in his youth, sporting an unfashionably tall afro and thick glasses and spending most of his time in the library. He graduated from Jefferson Davis High School in Montgomery and then went to Harvard University . He completed his undergraduate degree magna cum laude in 1990 and graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1993.
As a law student, Davis worked for Senator Howell Heflin for a year, then returned to Montgomery where he clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson and worked on civil rights cases with the Southern Poverty Law Center. After earning his law degree, he joined the office of the United States Attorney in Montgomery, compiling a 98% conviction rate in the federal courts as an Assistant U.S. Attorney from 1994 to 1998. He left to go into private practice, joining the Birmingham firm of Johnston Barton Proctor & Powell.
Davis ran against Earl Hilliard in the 2000 Democratic primary to represent the 7th District, created as a majority-black district under the Voting Rights Act, including the rural Black Belt area as well as portions of Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. He lost his challenge by a narrow margin. In the 2002 election, however, he won by a similarly narrow margin. Hilliard's defeat came as a blow to the once-dominant Jefferson County Citizens Coalition and was credited, in part, to Hilliard's alienating Jewish voters with trips to Libya and non-support for pro-Israel congressional resolutions.
Davis was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Known as a centrist bipartisan legislator, he earned praise from publications such as Roll Call and the National Journal. Davis was appointed the Senior Whip Team for the Democratic Caucus of the 109th Congress and was the Co-Chair of the centrist New Democrat Coalition, as well as the Southern Regional Co-Chair for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Seen as a rising star, Davis announced in May 2005 that he would like to run for a seat in the United States Senate or for Governor of Alabama. After the 2006 general election, in which he was unopposed, Davis showed early interest in challenging Jeff Sessions for his Senate seat in 2008, but instead put his energy into chairing the Alabama campaign for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. He delivered a nominating speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, in which he formally seconded the motion to name Obama the party's candidate for president.
Following the presidential inauguration, Davis announced his candidacy for Governor in the 2010 election. His platform focused on economic development and access to education. He won the endorsement of Peggy Wallace Kennedy, daughter of George Wallace, but did not seek endorsements from the New South Coalition or the Alabama Democratic Conference. His vote against the health care bill passed in Congress was widely seen as a move calculated to improve his chances in the general election at the expense of the welfare of his core constituents in the 7th District. In the primary, Ron Sparks outpolled him in his own district and among African-Americans statewide, securing the nomination with 62% of Democratic ballots.
After the defeat, Davis announced that he would no longer seek any political office or appointment. Davis resides in Birmingham. He was made a partner in the Washington D. C. office of SNR Denton in 2011. In May 2012 he left the Democratic Party and campaigned for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. He spke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland in 2013. He delivered another convention speech, this time at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.
In 2015 Davis ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of Montgomery. Later that year he filed to run for the Montgomery County Commission as a Democrat, but the Alabama Democratic Party rejected his request to rejoin the party, citing the "Radney Rule" which bars candidates who did not support the party in elections during the previous four years. Davis filed a lawsuit aimed at forcing the party to accept his application. He ended up running as an independent, finishing well behind Republican incumbent Todd Strange. He next considered running as a Democrat for a seat on the Montgomery County Commission and campaigned for Mayor of Montgomery again in 2019.
In December 2016, Davis was named executive director of Legal Services Alabama. He was suspended with pay while the organization's board investigated a number of complaints filed by staff members. He resigned in August 2017 and later filed a federal lawsuit claiming he had been the victim of racial discrimination. The suit was dismissed because it did not document an "adverse employment action" under federal law.
|Representative, 7th Congressional District of Alabama
2003 - 2011
- Wilson, Michael (July 3, 2002) "In Alabama Politics, How New Kid Won the Bloc." New York Times.
- "Artur Davis." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 20 Feb 2006, 23:51 UTC. 4 Apr 2006, 21:01 .
- Whitmire, Kyle (November 16, 2006) "Man of the House: Rep. Artur Davis considers his next move." Birmingham Weekly
- Rawls, Phillip (September 11, 2008) "Obama pal eyes bid to be first black Ala. governor." Associated Press
- Gray, Steven (April 28, 2009) "Can Alabama Spark a Democratic Revival in the South?" TIME magazine.
- Dade, Corey (May 11, 2010) "Black Democrat Tacks to Center in Alabama." Wall Street Journal
- Orndorff, Mary (May 12, 2010) "Campaign 2010: Despite his rising star, Artur Davis says he wants to come home." The Birmingham News
- Spencer, Thomas (June 3, 2010) "Artur Davis says he won't run for office again after loss in Alabama governor's race." The Birmingham News
- Demby, Gene (August 27, 2012) "Artur Davis, From Alabama Democrat To Republican National Convention Speaker." Huffington Post
- Williams, Vanessa (October 6, 2015) "Why Artur Davis, the GOP’s star Obama defector, is a Democrat again." The Washington Post
- Edgemon, Erin (October 22, 2015) "Artur Davis files lawsuit against Alabama Democrats." The Birmingham News
- Cason, Mike (December 7, 2016) "Former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis has new job." The Birmingham News
- "Artur Davis cannot pursue racial discrimination claim against nonprofit, judge rules." (December 3, 2021) Associated Press/The Birmingham News
- Artur Davis Legal Services Alabama