Athens, Ga. – Len Davis’s primary official job at the University of Georgia for the past 28 years has been directing the Equal Opportunity Office.
But that job doesn’t begin to cover all the tasks Davis has performed at UGA over more than three decades-a list that includes everything from helping run the Cooperative Extension Service, to providing legal advice to four university presidents, to managing a job placement service for the University System, to helping start the UGA equestrian team.
And though he retired on March 31, Davis won’t stray far from the campus where he’s been a fixture for 34 years. He’ll be working part-time for a few months during a transition period for the EOO. And he’ll continue to serve his alma mater as an ambassador, fund raiser and supporter.
“Len Davis has provided more than 30 years of exemplary service in a highly sensitive area,” said UGA President Michael F. Adams. “He has shown great ability and care in addressing the needs of the university and countless employees. We are truly indebted to him for his dedication.”
Davis, who earned a journalism degree from UGA in 1966 and a law degree in 1974, officially has been EOO director since 1986, and unofficially for several years previously. But it was not a job he sought-or wanted.
He was working with the university’s Cooperative Extension Service in 1980 when then-President Fred Davison, in need of legal assistance, brought him into the president’s office “on loan” to help deal with two long-running legal matters involving federal government agencies. After helping close those cases, Davis stayed on as an informal legal advisor to Davison at a time when the university did not have a legal affairs office.
One of the assignments Davison gave him was to help the unit then known as Equal Employment Opportunity-Affirmative Action through some organizational and staffing problems, which led to his eventual appointment as director.
In his early years at EOO, Davis oversaw the university’s compliance with civil rights laws, helped create a university affirmative action plan and started and oversaw the institutional grievance process. For at least 15 years, he was chair of the president’s committee that rules on institutional appeals related to eligibility for in-state tuition, and represented the university before the Board of Regents in appeals from such decisions.
Following Davison’s departure, Davis continued on the staffs of interim President Henry King Stanford and Presidents Charles Knapp and Adams. He has helped represent UGA in legal matters involving many federal and state agencies, assisted the Georgia attorney general’s office in legal matters involving the university, and served as a university liaison with the state’s congressional delegation and the Georgia legislature.
His legal counsel has covered issues ranging from academic freedom and technology transfer to tenure revocations. He helped negotiate real estate transfers and leases on several university properties including 4-H camps at Tybee and Jekyll islands, and was a leader in helping agricultural associations at land grant universities obtain tax-exempt status.
In 1983, Davis took on additional assignment as director of the University System of Georgia Applicant Clearinghouse, a database of vacant faculty and administrative positions at the 35 system colleges and universities. Thousands of people have been placed in jobs through the clearinghouse, which typically processes more than 1,500 positions annually and receives acknowledgments from some 200 new employees each year that they have found jobs.
Another task Davison assigned Davis was coordinating UGA equine programs. Davis helped the Equestrian Team get started using borrowed and donated horses and equipment. Competing against private equestrian clubs, the team finished its first season ranked seventh nationally, prompting Davison to donate his personal horse to the club.
Reflecting on his long service to the university, much of which has been behind-the-scenes and out of the public eye, Davis says, “I graduated from law school on one day and started to work for the university the next. After 28 years with the office of the president, I call myself ‘the unknown soldier in the war on ignorance’ because when I win my case, no one ever hears about it.”
Davis joined UGA in 1974 as a Cooperative Extension Service agent specializing in legal topics. He conducted law-related educational programs around the state and taught a course on agricultural law at UGA.
He became assistant to the director of the extension service in 1978 with duties that included helping manage extension operations around the state and representing the service with Georgia’s congressional delegation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee. He has been a consultant to the senate agriculture committee and the U.S. Congressional Office of Technology, and to national and international corporations.
A strong supporter of the UGA Alumni Association, Davis has made more than 1,400 speeches and lectures, speaking in every county in Georgia and half the states in the country. He is a member of the agriculture, journalism and law alumni organizations and, as the agent of his law school class, has led his class to the top in class fund-raising drives for the School of Law.
Davis and his wife, Mot, an Athens real estate agent, are co-authors of two books, DAWGFOOD: The Bulldog Cookbook, and Touchdown Tailgates, and he has written articles for professional publications as well as newspapers and magazines. He also has written an unpublished children’s book and a book of southern fiction, and is working on a novel about the Vietnam era.