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Celebrating the leadership, vision, tenacity, and love of community shared by the recipients of the Great Living Cincinnatian Award, presented annually by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber since 1967.
Jacob Davis has made significant contributions to our community through government service on many levels, as well as through his continuing voluntary service.
During his second term in the Ohio General Assembly, he played a major role in developing the school foundation program that today serves as the basis for public school financing in Ohio. He also helped formulate a reorganization of the Tax Commission of Ohio into a more effective Department of Taxation. In 1970, he served as chairman of Governor Gilligan’s Citizens Task Force on Tax Reform and became known as the father of Ohio state income tax.
Raised in Beaver, Ohio, Mr. Davis graduated in 1927 from Ohio State, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He continued his education at Harvard University, where he earned a law degree in 1930.
He practiced law in Waverly, Ohio, after graduating from Harvard, and served two terms as Pike County prosecuting attorney. Twice, the Democrat was elected to the Ohio General Assembly, and served as the majority floor leader during his second term, before he became a judge for the Pike County Common Pleas Court in 1937.
In 1940, Davis was elected to Congress and had the unusual honor of being named to the important Foreign Affairs Committee as a freshman Congressman. In 1943 he became special assistant to Navy Secretary James Forrestal, and later became assistant general counsel for the Navy Department.
Davis joined The Kroger Co. in 1945 and helped to build it into one of America’s leading supermarket chains. He rose to president in 1962 and retired as president and chairman in 1970.
He served as vice chairman of the board of trustees of Ohio State University and chairman of its Presidential Search Committee. He was chairman of the reorganization committee of the Community Chest and Council, and an original member of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Distribution Committee and worked diligently for this organization as an associate director. For 30 years, he served on the Board of Bethesda Inc., and was its chairman from 1975 to 1990. For his contributions, the Ohio Hospital Association honored him as a trustee of the year in 1982. He was chairman of the board of directors of Bethesda Hospital Deaconess Association, and was chairman of the site selection committee that chose the location of Bethesda North Hospital.
Davis has not only served on governmental bodies, but has been a leading force in efforts to help government work more effectively. He was vice chairman of the Citizens Committee to Improve Local Governments which worked in 1970 and 1971 to develop recommendations for changes in Hamilton County’s governmental structure and produced a working document that will form the basis of any future efforts to alter out local government system.
Mr. Davis was a member of the Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church, and served on its board of trustees for several years. His wife, Minnie Eleanor Davis, died in 2000.
Recipients are selected from candidates by the Cincinnati Chamber’s senior council based on the following criteria: – Community service – Business and civic attainment on a local, state and national or international level – Leadership – Awareness of the needs of others – Distinctive accomplishments that have brought favorable attention to their community, institution or organization