By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Sharon was born in Mobile, Alabama, the daughter of an Air Force sergeant and product of a failed marriage that left her mother rearing four children alone in Las Vegas and, later, Los Angeles. Like Ron, Sharon had an advanced degree, a master's in public administration from California State University at Los Angeles.
Not long after they were married, the couple relocated to Dallas, although nobody is quite sure why. They didn't know anyone here. Ron had no employment lined up. "They just picked Dallas," Ware says.
Rather than enter the legal profession, Davis went to work for the city as an accountant in 1982 and several years later moved to code enforcement.
Family friends say Ron was always politically minded, but it wasn't until after he left his city job in the early 1990s that he began emerging as a visible activist.
He landed a position on a county advisory board on juvenile justice issues and formed several groups that received government grants to deal with youth crime. Davis also began emerging as a leader with the Dallas NAACP and was elected to its executive board. The association was making waves in the late 1990s under then-president Lee Alcorn, who had a high profile in several protests at DISD board meetings. The protests, which sometimes ended in scuffles, gathered a lot of publicity.
Friends and relatives say they became accustomed to seeing Davis on television, usually right behind Alcorn or Price, or leading news conferences on his own.
In 1999, national NAACP officials suspended Alcorn, Price and Davis after complaints about irregularities in a local association election. It was a multi-chaptered saga in which Davis, in a newsworthy and highly contentious move, incorporated a new NAACP chapter at his house. Neither Alcorn, who Davis' children say was a frequent visitor at their home, nor Price, who also would stop by, returned phone calls seeking comment on Davis and his career.
From the time Ron Davis left his city job, Ronnie and Autumn say, they were never certain what their father did for a living. He would go to civic meetings, and the family would attend NAACP banquets. But there was no regular job. "All he would do from about the time I was in eighth grade was hang around the house with the stock channel on and trade," Ronnie says.
"He always told us that he traded stock. He was like a day-trader...a financial adviser to different people," Autumn says.
"He had some kind of nonprofit foundation he was buying real estate through," says Ozzie Brewer, the neighbor, who is in the business of buying houses, making repairs and selling them.
Brewer recalls Davis and a young woman looking at a house of his, with an eye to invest. "I know at the time he was day-trading the stock market; we'd talked about some stocks. When I told him he could make about $25,000 on the deal, she told him, 'You don't want to mess with that. You could make $30,000 in two hours on your computer.'"
Property records show that Davis' tax-exempt Dallas Economic Development Corp. owns a house in Dallas, on Bonnie View Road. On federal tax forms Davis prepared and filed over the past three years, he reported paying himself $29,000 a year through the company and listed four close family members as its officers and board of directors. One, his brother Henry A. Davis, who lives in Milwaukee, is listed by only his first and middle names. Sharon was also listed as an officer by her maiden name, Sharon Ware. His daughter Ronnette, who lives in California, is listed as the company's president, with an annual salary of $3,300.
Davis described the group's mission as "elevating the economic status of poor people" through 11 different activities, including providing food and shelter to the homeless, small-business creation and work with public schoolchildren to increase academic achievement and community involvement.
Davis, who describes himself today as a lawyer/mediator, has never been licensed to practice law in Texas courts and, records show, has never applied to take the Texas bar exam. Through the Dallas County commissioners, he faxed a fresh résumé that listed only his legal education and the fact that he has been licensed to practice law in Wisconsin since 1974.
An Observer search of public records filled in some gaps on Davis and turned up some things his children say they didn't know.
Ronnie, Autumn and a number of people close to the family say Ron Davis always seemed to them to be healthy and able-bodied, as sound of mind as anyone. But in the early '90s, Davis brought a claim against his last regular employer, the city of Dallas, alleging he was "psychologically impaired" and too sick to work.
In 1992, seven years into his job as a code-enforcement supervisor, Davis reported that he was mugged in a city building in Rochester Park, the tough neighborhood where he worked. The attack occurred six weeks after Davis lost a grievance against the city for being passed over for a promotion. Both issues ended up in court, with Davis representing himself.