Through marriage, James Davis was a part of the McArthur milk dynasty that had nearly everyone uttering the perky TV ad slogan, “We all grew up on McArthur.”
Davis, who died at 99 on Jan. 29 at his Bay Point home, moved to Miami in 1946 when he married Jean McArthur, eventual president and chairwoman of McArthur Management Co., the giant dairy company that provided milk to practically everyone in South Florida since its founding in 1929.
But Davis ran his own dairy farms, too — Davis Dairies and Davis Meadowbrook Farm — in Boynton Beach and Fort Pierce. His farms sold its milk to co-ops, while his wife’s company also did production. At the time of his wife’s death, at 70 in 1995, her company owned more than 15,000 dairy cows that supplied up to 38,000 gallons of milk daily to Florida dairies.
Davis’ roots grew deep in the South Florida community since his move here 70 years ago: from dairy farmer to Miami Dolphins part owner to Sunday school superintendent and philanthropist.
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“We all grew up on McArthur, Susan and I more than most,” John Hall of Miami Lakes wrote on the guest book of Davis’ Miami Herald obituary. “Sue attended Miami Shores Presbyterian Church, attending the Sunday School Jim served as superintendent. My grandfather worked for McArthur Dairies. I attained my engineering degree at the University of Miami College of Engineering, housed in the James N. McArthur Building. We were married in the McArthur Chapel, where his funeral will be held. Thank you Jim and the McArthur-Davis family for your contributions to our community.”
Davis, born Dec. 9, 1917, in Wilmington, North Carolina, attended Duke University and Northwestern University and made his professional mark in real estate investments, his part ownership in the Miami Dolphins during the football team’s 1972 undefeated Super Bowl championship season and his service on numerous boards including First Union Bank.
He was active and caring into his 100th year.
Historial Arva Moore Parks on James Davis.
Davis was past chairman of the YMCA and Salvation Army boards. He supported Easter Seals, the Historical Society of Dade County and Rotary and Kiwanis clubs. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living member of the Orange Bowl Committee, his daughter Linda Davis Laskin said.
One of his great passions, granddaughter Heather Laskin said, was his active support of several mission organizations, including the Outreach Foundation and the Haggai Institute, for which he sponsored numerous leadership training sessions in Maui. At Miami Shores Presbyterian Church, he served as deacon, elder and Sunday school superintendent. Davis also helped the Reformed Theological Seminary obtain its new building in Orlando.
“His faith and love of the Lord impacted his life,” Laskin said. “Doing mission’s work was such a large part of who he was and evident in his daily life. The love he showed for other people was so important to him.”
Davis also loved a good time — and with the Dolphins’ still-unmatched championship season and for about five years, his tenure with the team was a delight. “He loved it,” his daughter said. “He loved traveling to games with the team and knowing the players and that was fun for him. He loved life, people and adventures, and that was all of those things for him.”
Davis Laskin remembers when primary owner, the late Joe Robbie, who founded the Dolphins in 1965 with actor Danny Thomas, slowly bought out the other investors. Her father was the last to sell. “He held out to the end.”
He was definitely a social person and got to know people. He was always interested in who they were and what they did.
Linda Davis Laskin on her father, Jim Davis.
Davis learned early how to hold on to the people and activities he loved.
“He was the oldest of five children and his dad died suddenly. At 9, around the time of the Depression, he had to step up and take care of his family and so family was important to him,” Laskin said.
“He loved to see people maximize their potential,” grandson Robert Laskin added. “Everyone he came in contact with, he would encourage them to pursue those goals. You had to be careful to say you wanted to try something because he’d say, ‘Let’s do it!’”
Local historian Arva Moore Parks once taught Davis’ daughter Nancy at Everglades School for Girls. She remembers Davis as “a special man who shared his family’s wealth with important causes. He was active and caring into his 100th year.”
Davis is survived by his children Rhodes Davis, Nancy Jean Davis and Linda Davis Laskin; five grandchildren; one great-grandchild; his brother Claude and sister Louise. He was predeceased by his son James McArthur Davis in 1978.
A viewing will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Gregg L. Mason Funeral Home, 10936 NE Sixth Ave., Miami. Funeral service will be at 1 p.m. Monday at the McArthur Memorial Chapel of Miami Shores Presbyterian Church, 602 NE 96th St.