By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
In the promotion matter, Davis alleged he was the victim of a buddy system and that he was owed roughly $1.2 million in damages. City officials said another candidate outscored Davis in the selection process and was awarded the better job. Davis eventually dropped his suit.
For the disability claim, Davis presented psychological evaluations concluding that the attack left him with a severe case of post-traumatic stress, making him angry and obsessed with thoughts of revenge. But the city's expert, Dr. Marvin Cornette, found nothing wrong with Davis. The psychiatrist concluded that Davis was merely angry because the city, city staff and the city's insurer--who at one point hired a private investigator to follow Davis around--were fighting his claim.
"Feeling angry because one does not feel he has received what is entitled him, and threatening to hurt others as a result, is based on an immature personality style and not a psychiatric disorder," Cornette wrote.
In 1997, though, for reasons that are not recorded in court files, city attorneys simply stopped filing motions, and Davis won the case. He came away with almost five years of pay.
As a result of the lawsuit, through years when Davis was being regularly quoted in the daily newspaper as the director and general counsel of the Texas Family Institute, "an African-American think tank that works on juvenile justice issues," or the co-chairman of the African-American Advisory Council for Juveniles, another Davis-led organization that later dropped from sight, he was cashing city-funded checks for being mentally unfit to hold a job.
Davis had some other adventures in court around the same time. A brother and sister alleged Davis improperly influenced their mother and seized her six-figure inheritance before she died in 1996. That family fight, which is outlined in legal papers filed in Mississippi, ended without the complaining siblings getting anything. But Davis dropped a bomb on his sister, Reida Davis, of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Although the matter concerned the relatively small sum of $15,000, Davis found it important enough to sue his own sister in federal court.
"This action," U.S. District Judge Joe Fish noted in his opinion tossing out Davis' lawsuit, "involves a family squabble that has become, quite literally, a federal case."
As her children grew a little older, she took the first of what would be a steady line of jobs: as a counselor in pre-trial release at the Lew Sterrett Justice Center, then as a counselor at a state jail in Hutchins and later, teaching. Her sister, Beverly Ware, says Sharon might have had a better career history were it not for a lack of confidence and poor self-esteem.
A friend, Mary Jordan, says Sharon dabbled in jazz singing, drawing and loved going to the theater but mainly was wrapped up in raising Ronnie and Autumn. "When we were out, we'd talk about her kids, girl-type things. She was crazy about her kids," Jordan says. Ron was always a gentleman when she and her husband would visit for dinner, she says. That impression would change when Sharon got to know her better and began telling things about life at home.
"Sharon really wanted to be married," her sister says. "I think that's because we basically grew up in a single-parent household." Even when the marriage soured after about five years and the birth of Ronnie and Autumn, Sharon hung in there because she didn't want her children growing up without a dad, the sister says.
Their mother worked constantly, Autumn and Ronnie say, and was made to pay half the household expenses from her own earnings, which she told several friends Davis made her keep in her own accounts after the aborted separation in 1985.
With his influential friends, family and neighbors say, Davis projected himself as a wealthy, connected man. At home, he was known for scrimping on everything for the family: clothes, cars, even pots and pans, which were so old that some didn't have handles, several relatives say. "The cake's your present," says Ronnie, describing a lot of birthdays. "That's what he'd say."
"He was very, very, very cheap, but she was, too," says Sharon's sister, who recalls the family pinning clothes on a line to avoid running the dryer. "You can count up on one hand the number of women who would put up with that. She was one of them."
But putting up was not easy.
Behind closed doors, the children say, their father was controlling, ill-tempered and so dismissive of their mother that they came to see it as mental abuse. "He would play mental games...like tell her she couldn't do stuff," says Autumn, who with her brother says her mother suffered a lack of confidence and was easily hurt by Ron's verbal slights. "When she wanted to become a principal, he was like, 'What are you talking about?' Like she couldn't do it."