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37th Governor of
California, January 4, 1999-2003

Born:  December 26, 1942, in New York City

Marriage:  Sharon Ryer (1983)


Born Joseph Graham Davis, Jr., young Davis received the nickname of Gray from his mother. That remained his name of choice as he entered a political career.


Early Life

Gray Davis was born in the Bronx section of New York City, the oldest of six children. When Gray was eleven years old the family moved to California, where Gray went to both public and private schools. He was known as a serious student and also as a good athlete. He particularly liked golf, winning two Junior Cup championships while in high school. At Stanford, where he graduated with honors in 1964, he was on the varsity golf team. He received a law degree from Columbia University in 1967. Service in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam conflict brought Davis the rank of captain and a Bronze Star for distinguished action.



Davis worked as a clerk in a law firm in New York City before becoming Chief of Staff to California Governor Edmund G. Brown (1975-81). As chair of the California Council on Criminal Justice, Davis began the statewide neighborhood watch program. He served in the State legislature as the representative from Los Angeles County from 1983-87, and as State controller from 1987-95. His reputation for finding ways to save money and exposing misuse of public funds led to his election as lieutenant governor (1995-99).



As governor, Davis declared that improving public education in the state was his first priority. His READ (Raising Expectations, Achievement and Development) plan, as approved by the legislature in the first months of his administration, included new reading programs, a high school exit exam, teacher performance reviews, and increased school accountability for student performance.

Davis faced a state-wide crisis in the availability of energy late in his first term. He also saw a large budget surplus become a record budget deficit. These factors, along with a perceived lack of responsiveness to the people, led to him becoming the first governor in California history to be recalled in a special election.


Later Years

Since leaving office, Davis has been a guest lecturer at UCLA's School of Public Policy, worked as an attorney at Loeb & Loeb, and served on the Board of Directors of DiC Entertainment.


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