LARRY DAVIS (Photo by J.L. Martello)

Larry Davis says he’ll ‘always be rooting against racial injustice’

Larry Davis, who announced last month that he would retire as dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work at the end of the school year, tells a story about running around with his childhood friends at night back in Saginaw, Mich. when they saw a police car. Being kids, they thought it would be fun to run and have the officer chase them. He did.

“So, he catches us. ‘What are you kids doing out here?’ And he puts us in the car. He drove us around for two hours, then gets on the radio and says, ‘I’m bringing some kids in to take to the juvenile detention center,’” Davis told the New Pittsburgh Courier in an exclusive interview.

“Now, we hadn’t done anything. He didn’t give us a lecture or a warning or anything. Then the guy on the radio says, ‘You can’t bring them here—we’re full.’ So, he let us go. I often think about what would’ve happened if that had turned out differently—because for a lot of people, it did.”

That point was reinforced years later when Davis, as a budding academic, got to tour a Michigan state prison, and while walking among cliques of inmates from various parts of the state out in the exercise yard, he hears, “Hey, Davis, is that you?” It was one of his old friends from Saginaw.

“I was never the smartest. I didn’t work as hard as some people, but I was the first Black to get tenure at (Washington University, St. Louis, Mo.) and the first in the country with PhDs in Psychology and Social Work,” he said. “But I walked through a minefield. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had a fabulous life.”

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