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Edward P. Davis Jr. J.D ’73 died July 19, 2013. He came from an unusual background for a man who emerged as a strong advocate of freedom of the press. He was a child of the military, a Naval ROTC student at Stanford and a former federal attorney who helped prosecute Patty Hearst.
For a long stretch in the 1980s and early 1990s, Davis was the attorney for the Mercury News at a time when a confident and improving newspaper did battle with local governments over public records and public meetings. He rarely lost a case. "There was no better advocate for open government and open meetings than Ed Davis," said Bob Ingle, the former executive editor of the Mercury News. "He wouldn’t have put the time and effort into those cases if he hadn’t been a true believer.”
Davis, 64, died on July 19 in San Antonio from complications of a double-lung transplant in 2011. His friends say the surgery was successful but left Davis vulnerable to infection. A witty man who had the ability to think on his feet and regale friends with stories, Davis in recent years had defended white-ollar clients charged with a variety of crimes — anti-trust, money-laundering, export offenses and tax fraud.
Even when his health declined, the attorney retained a sense of community obligation: After undergoing his lung transplant, he spoke to groups about his experience and volunteered with Donate Life California, an advocacy group for organ donation.
Davis was born in La Jolla on Aug. 23, 1948, the son of Shirley Stock Davis and Lt. Commander Edward P. Davis Sr. As a "military brat,” he moved frequently. It was in Hawaii, where he attended Punahou School for two years, that he became a lifelong San Francisco Giants fan while listening to the recorded summations of their games. Davis graduated from Blackford High School in San Jose, where he met his wife, Sheryl Cook M.A. ’80. He went on to Stanford, where he joined NROTC in hopes of becoming a naval aviator. When medical reasons prevented that, he became a private pilot anyway — and later an accomplished sailor. His friends say his experience at Stanford left him with a decidedly more liberal political outlook than his parents. After graduating from Santa Clara Law School in 1973, Davis clerked for U.S. District Judge Oliver Carter for a year and then joined the federal prosecutor’s office in San Francisco, where he worked between 1974 and 1978 and served as a junior attorney on the Hearst case. Then he joined the Rankin Oneal law firm in downtown San Jose, where he became the Mercury News attorney. When he won a public records case, executive editor Ingle published a photo of the check the government wrote to pay for Davis’ attorneys fees. Davis moved his practice to the Pillsbury law firm when it opened an office in downtown San Jose in the mid-1980s. He later joined a boutique law firm and practiced at Gray, Cary Ware & Freidenrich before finishing his career as a partner with Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe. He also taught at Santa Clara University. A former San Carlos resident who moved with his family to Wimberley, Texas, to be closer to his son, Davis is survived by his wife, Sheryl, a son, Braden, his daughter-in-law Amy, and two grandchildren.