Joseph Davis (SHS 1942)

Forensic Scientist

At the Academic Awards evening at Scarsdale High School in May, 1942, Ira Newlin, Chairman of the Science Department, announced that Joseph Davis was the winner of the Bausch & Lomb Science Award as the finest science student at SHS.  

After graduation from SHS, Davis served in the U.S. Army for four years and in 1949 graduated from the Long Island College of Medicine. A surgical internship in San Francisco followed and then he joined the U.S. Public Health Service where he was assigned to four different Indian areas. Distressed by the minimum support services available to Indians, he secured reassignment to Pathology.

This new assignment awakened [Davis’s] “never ceasing curiosity” and he joined the new Medical Examiner’s Office in Miami, Florida. A year later, the Director of the examiner’s office died and Davis was appointed Acting Director and a year after that, Director. He held that position for forty years.

Davis’s stature and accomplishments in Miami led to his serving as a case consultant throughout Florida, as an aircraft crash consultant for the U.S. Air Force, and even as an assistant to the police in as far away places as the Cayman Islands. In 1968, he was appointed to the pathology panel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations to investigate the deaths of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

In time, his good work in Miami led to his becoming the President of the Dade County Medical Association, President of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and the President of the National Association of Medical Examiners.

Additional honors followed. Three new buildings on the Medical Examiner complex were named the Dr. Joseph H. Davis Center for Forensic Pathology. At the dedication a letter from John G. Farrow, his 10th grade biology teacher, was read. In February, 2005 the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, with over 6000 member, awarded Dr. Davis the Gradwohl Medallion for his distinguished service to forensic science. The Gradwohl award, the highest honor bestowed by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, has only been awarded eleven times in the previous thirty years.