Jerome Davis was born on December 2, 1891 in Kioto, Japan where his parents were missionaries. His father had helped to found Doshisha University and was a teacher there so Jerome spent his early childhood in Japan. He came to the United States in 1904 to attend Oberlin Academy and, later, Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. In college he was an active member of the debating team and president of the Young Men's Christian Association. After graduation in 1913, he decided he wanted to enter a service occupation. For a year he worked with the Minneapolis Civic and Commerce Association. Among his other accomplishments, he was able to get a half holiday for workers in some of the larger factories in Minneapolis.
In 1914, Davis decided to study for the ministry and also obtain a doctorate. He began studying at Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University simultaneously. To finance his education he did social work, and was an assistant at Broadway Tabernacle and lectured for the City of New York.
The summer of 1915 was spent as the private secretary to Sir Wilfred Grenfell in Labrador. They toured the coast by ship and, according to Davis' writings, his duties ran the gamut from arresting felons to extracting teeth. Davis did not return to school that Fall. Instead, he volunteered to go to Europe and work with prisoners of war. Since the United States was still a neutral country, help had to be given to both sides. Davis was sent to Russia to work with German prisoners. In addition to trying to improve the conditions in the German camps, Davis, noticing that the Russian soldiers also lived under rather unpleasant circumstances, set up YMCA centers for them. When the United States entered the war he was put in charge of all YMCA work in Russia. At the request of the U.S. Government, he directed the distribution of over a million copies of President Wilson's "14 Points" message to soldiers in the German army.
Jerome Davis was opposed to the United States invasion of Russia because he felt more could be accomplished by recognizing the Soviet Union and trying to work with them than by going to war. During the 1920's he visited Russia several times. His speeches and articles for the period reflect his strong opinions on the subject.
After completing his work at Union Theological Seminary in 1920 and obtaining his Doctor of Philosophy Degree from Columbia University in 1922, Davis became an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Dartmouth College. He was an advocate of organized labor. While at Dartmouth he aided the labor movement by investigating a strike at the Amoskeag plant in Manchester, New Hampshire and publishing his findings. The Federal Coal Commision asked him to investigate the labor situation in the coal mines of West Virginia. Many of his findings were incorporated in the Federal Coal Commission report.
During this period, he was also serving as chairman of the Social Service Commission of the Congregational Church. His work in social service brought him an in invation, in 1924, to occupy the Gilbert L. Stark Chair of Practical Philanthropy at Yale University. While at Yale, Davis helped to organize monthly labor forums for the New Haven Trades Council, formulated a statement of social ideals regarding labor which was adopted by the Congregational and Christian Churches of America and served as chairman of the Social Service Commission of all the Protestant Churches in Connecticut. He also served as chairman of the Legislative Commission on Jails of the State of Connecticut for twelve years. The Commission had a Federal grant of $50,000 to study the records of prisoners in Connecticut. Their findings were published in 1932.
Some of Jerome Davis' stands, particularly on organized labor, were unpopular with various members of the Yale Board of Directors. This hampered his career at Yale and eventually cost him his job. The case generated considerable publicity in 1936 and investigations were conducted by the National Education Association, the American Federation of Labor and the American Association of University Professors. He was invited to head the newly-founded Department of Human Relations at the University of Newark but the offer was withdrawn when the Board of Trustees became alarmed at the prospect of having such a controversial figure in charge of the new department.
Despite his academic problems, Davis was elected president of the American Federation of Teachers in 1936 and served in that capacity for three years. In 1940, he was a delegate from Connecticut to the Democratic National Convention. He was a visiting professor at various colleges and universities but never again held a full-time teaching position. During World War II, he headed the YMCA prisoner of war work in Canada and served as a correspondent in Russia in 1943 and 1944. In 1949 he headed a peace mission to Europe and in 1952 became the Executive Director of Promoting Enduring Peace, Inc. This organization distributed peace literature through churches and synagogues.
Throughout his career, Davis traveled extensively. He made a large number of trips to Russia and several to Japan. Some of his trips were official or semi-official to check conditions in problem areas; others were lecture tours. He also led tours to Europe and Asia. His interviews and observations during his travels provided material for some of his lecture tours in the United States. Other lecture topics included labor problems, peace, penal and social reform. Jerome Davis has written numerous articles and over twenty books. His books include "Contemporary Social Movements" (1930), "Peace, War and You" (1952), "Citizens of One World" (1961), "World Leaders I Have Known" (1963), "Disarmament: A World View" (1964), "A Life Adventure for Peace" (1967), and "Peace or World War III" (1969).
Jerome Davis died on October 19, 1979.
Some of the Jerome Davis Papers, 1915-1963, have been donated to the University of Oregon. The Papers held by the Library span the period from his college days at Oberlin (1912) to his association with Promoting Enduring Peace, Inc. (1965). They consist of subject files on a wide range of topics; correspondence concerning his writings, lectures, seminars and tours; copies of speeches, articles, book drafts and manuscripts.
Drafts, background materials, manuscripts and correspondence relating to speeches, articles and books by Davis; writings by other persons miscellaneous printed matter.
Paper for Course ETHICAL ASPECTS OF LABOR PROBLEMS
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