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James Davis

COLUMBIA — Between earning doctorate degrees and conducting research on heart failure, Jim Davis loved to fish for trout.

“He was always hardworking, very scientific, very honest and loved to fish,” his son, Larry Davis, said.

Dr. Davis died Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010. He was 94.

He was born July 12, 1916, in Tahlequah, Okla., to Villa and Zemri Davis.

He married Florrilla Sides on Dec. 27, 1941. They met while studying zoology together at MU.

Dr. Davis received his doctorate degree in zoology from MU in 1942 and another doctorate degree in medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in 1945.

Larry Davis said hard work was the secret to his father’s success.

“He grew up during the Depression,” Larry Davis said. “He did a lot of paper routes and cleaned bathrooms, anything. He left with probably about $2.75 in his pocket and earned two doctorate degrees before he quit.”

In 1949, Dr. Davis was invited to establish a research program on experimental heart failure at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. He worked there for 20 years, during which time he trained many postdoctoral fellows.

Dr. Davis returned to Columbia in 1966 and became the chairman of the Department of Physiology at the MU School of Medicine. He also served as chairman of the Council for High Blood Pressure Research of the American Heart Association, president of the Cardiovascular Section of the American Physiological Society and president of the International Society of Hypertension. In 1982, he was elected to be a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

“He was always proud of what he did,” Larry Davis said. “He knew the scientific method. You can talk your way through research sometimes, but dad always held people to be exact and honest in research and reporting.”

During his lifetime, Dr. Davis received numerous awards, including the Golden Apple Teaching Award in Medicine from MU and the Modern Medicine Distinguished Achievement Award. In total, he received more than $3 million in research grants. His research has contributed to the development of many treatments for congestive heart failure and hypertension, his son said.

“He really believed in what he was doing and worked hard,” Larry Davis said. “And because of that he contributed a lot to science.”

Dr. Davis is survived by a son, Larry Davis of St. Louis; a daughter, Janet McGetrick of Columbia; a brother, Harry Davis of Galveston, Texas; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

His wife died earlier.

Visitation will be from 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Funeral Home, 1217 Business Loop 70 in Columbia. Graveside services will follow at Memorial Park Cemetery next to the funeral home.

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