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.
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."
Sharon Davis' temperament could not have been more different from her husband's, friends say. People use words such as quiet, shy and sweet to describe the regular churchgoer, who was seldom heard to raise her voice. "Everybody loved Sharon," says Sandra Brewer, the longtime neighbor and friend. On their block, she cooked for parties and was thoughtful enough to send cards or flowers when someone was sick.