Texas Oilman Enriched the State, the University


Walter Royal Davis of Chapel Hill

On May 19, 2008, Walter Royal Davis of Midland, Texas; Manteo; and Chapel Hill, died. The oil magnate turned philanthropist never attended a college class in his life but donated generously to North Carolina schools, to favorite causes and to those in need of help.

As a young man Davis engaged in the rough-and-tumble of the oil business and served a 90-day federal prison sentence in 1948 for failure to file income taxes. By 1952, he had launched a highly successful trucking operation to haul crude oil from wells to refineries. He parlayed those profits into real estate and, combined with his winnings at the blackjack and gin rummy tables, became fantastically wealthy.  Over the course of his life he was married six times to four different women.

Thoroughly Texan and a friend of both Presidents Bush, Davis did not forget the Tar Heel State. He retired to North Carolina and formed strong political and personal friendships, notably with legislator Marc Basnight.

Louisburg College, Methodist University and churches and schools in his native Elizabeth City benefited from his gifts. As a trustee of UNC-Chapel Hill, he guided $32 million in state proceeds from utility sales to the construction of a library, completed in 1984, that bears his name.

Check out NCpedia for more on the history of education in North Carolina.

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