Gordon J. Davis is a senior partner in the law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP. Born in Chicago, Davis was deeply influenced by coming of age in the 1940s and ‘50s as part of both the vibrant black community of Chicago's Southside and the community of scholars, students, and families at the University of Chicago where his father W. Allison Davis—the John Dewey Distinguished Professor of Education—was a member of the faculty from 1941–1983. Upon completing his education at Williams College, Columbia University's Graduate Faculties, and the Harvard Law School, Davis moved to New York City in 1967. He subsequently served as an assistant to Mayor John Lindsay, as a Commissioner of the New York City Planning Commission, as the City's Parks Commissioner during the first two terms of Mayor Edward I. Koch, and on the Mayoral Transition Committees of Mayor David N. Dinkins and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. He is the Founding Chairman of Jazz at Lincoln Center, the co-founder of the Central Park Conservancy, and previously served as president of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. He is a involved with The New York Public Library, the Municipal Arts Society, the New York Public Theater, the Central Park Conservancy, Con Edison, Dreyfus, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and the Studio Museum in Harlem.
Over the years, Davis has been involved in a wide array of private and public projects, including the creation of Jazz at Lincoln Center, the construction of JALC’s Rose Hall at the Time Warner Center, the restoration of the landmark Main Reading Room at the Public Library, the still on-going glorious reconstructing of Central Park and Prospect Park, the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, the construction of the Center for Earth and Space at the American Museum of Natural History, the rebuilding of Ground Zero, the development of the 9/11 Memorial, and the revival of Bryant Park.
Davis's contributions to New York City and to the arts have been honored and recognized frequently. He has been awarded with the Medal of the City of New York for Exceptional Service, honorary doctor of law degrees from Williams College and Bard College, a Harlem School of the Arts Founders Medal, a Williams College Bicentennial Medal for Distinguished Achievement, the Dance Theatre of Harlem's Karel Shook Founders Award, the Frederick Law Olmsted Medal of the Central Park Conservancy, Jazz at Lincoln Center's Award for Leadership; Citizen's Committee for New York Chapin Award for the Arts, the Judicial Award for Leadership (Association of African American Federal, State, and City Judges), and the Studio Museum in Harlem Leadership Award.