Ralph Cresap Davis, 79, lawyer and professor


Ralph Cresap Davis, who had been a lawyer, college professor and chairman of the Maryland Humanities Council, died Saturday of heart failure at Washington County General Hospital in Hagerstown.

The Smithsburg resident was 79.

Dr. Davis began his legal career in Annapolis in 1949 and was counsel to St. John's College, the U.S. Naval Institute, the Annapolis Housing Authority, the Key School and Historic Annapolis, where he was on the board of trustees.

He was also a supervising trial attorney for the office of the solicitor in the U.S. Department of Labor from 1961 to 1968, when he moved to Smithsburg in Western Maryland.

While living in Annapolis, he was a member of the Anne Arundel County Bar Association and was a founding member of the Annapolis Unitarian Church.

In Smithsburg, Dr. Davis maintained a part-time law practice while a professor of business law and management at Frederick Community College for 16 years, until retiring in 1984. He also was an instructor at Mount St. Mary's College, the Mont Alto campus of Pennsylvania State University and Anne Arundel Community College.

He was vice chairman of the Maryland Humanities Council from 1984 to 1986 and chairman in 1987 and 1988.

Born and reared in Annapolis, he was an eighth-generation descendant of Col. Thomas Cresap, Western Maryland frontiersman and Revolutionary War patriot. His great-grandfather, the Rev. John McDowell Leavitt, who had been president of St. John's College, was the eldest son of Judge Humphrey Howe Leavitt, the first federal judge appointed by President Andrew Jackson for Ohio in 1834.

Dr. Davis earned his bachelor's degree in 1938 from St. John's College, his law degree in 1949 from the University of Maryland School of Law and a master's in law from Georgetown University in 1962.

During World War II, he served in the Navy in the Pacific and was discharged with the rank of lieutenant in 1946.

He remained active in the Naval Reserve.

He was a member of the American Bar Association, the Washington County Bar Association and the American Arbitration Association.

He was a member of the Cresap Society for descendants of Colonel Cresap and a founding director of the Ocean World Institute, an educational organization that operates the skipjack Minnie V.

Services will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at his residence, 12852 Bikle Road, Smithsburg.

He is survived by his wife of 34 years, the former Emma Lou Smalley; three daughters, Anna Davis Gordon of Baltimore, Anita Cresap Simons of Hanalei, Hawaii, and Kathleen Cecil Dick of Potomac; a stepson, Jonathan Davis of Oklahoma; a brother, Otis Benson Davis of Kent, Conn.; four grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

Memorial donations may be made to the Maryland Humanities Council, 601 N. Howard St., Baltimore 21201.

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