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Paul Westley Davis, 55, youngest member of Harold Washington’s cabinet, star athlete

Obit phoMr. Paul Davis 45 Chicago died May 12. A former journalist publicist activist political strategist was youngest member Mayor

Obit photo of Mr. Paul Davis, 45, of Chicago, died May 12. A former journalist, publicist, activist and political strategist, was the youngest member of Mayor Harold Washington’s cabinet, having served as Washington’s press secretary in Congress. He later managed political races for the likes of U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, Dan Hynes for governor, and the mayoral campaigns of Dorothy Brown, Bob Fioretti and the Rev. Paul Jakes. Most recently ran his own p.r./advocacy firm, First Trace Communications, Inc. Memorial scheduled for May 30th

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Updated: July 3, 2012 12:11PM

From working to rid the South Side of tobacco and alcohol billboards to limiting offensive lyrics on the airwaves, Paul Westley Davis didn’t back down from championing a cause.

In 2011, Mr. Davis was part of a team that campaigned against radio stations playing music with violent content and degrading references to women. Clear Channel Communications agreed to a covenant to play such music after 10 p.m., to help keep it out of reach for under-aged listeners.

It would be just one of the many campaigns Mr. Davis, of the Chatham neighborhood, headed over his life.

Mr. Davis, 55, died May 12 after a battle with prostate cancer. His services were held May 19.

Family, colleagues and friends said Mr. Davis was part of the city’s political legacy as a political strategist as well as a social justice activist.

Mr. Davis was a reporter and the managing editor of the Chicago Citizen Newspaper Group. He was a fixture in his church, Stony Island Church of Christ. He ran his own public relations and advocacy firm, First Trace Communications, Inc., which was named after his late brother, Tracy.

Mr. Davis advocated for prostate cancer awareness as did his late father, John, who also had the illness, said Deborah Douglas. Douglas, a former Chicago Sun-Times reporter who moved into Mr. Davis’ mother’s home to help take care of him before his death, described Mr. Davis as her best friend.

She said Mr. Davis, who worked on numerous political campaigns, was part of Chicago’s political legacy.

“He was the youngest member of Harold Washington’s cabinet,” she said. Mr. Davis worked as Washington’s press secretary in Congress, she said.

Well-spoken, a leader and mentor, Mr. Davis would help local politicians with their strategy. That included Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd). Mr. Davis worked on Fioretti’s aldermanic campaigns and helped collect 40,000 signatures as Fioretti was poised to announce for a mayoral run. Fioretti was diagnosed with tonsil cancer and dropped out.

Fioretti, who said he had known Mr. Davis since the Harold Washington era, spoke of Mr. Davis’ successful work to ban billboards promoting the sale of alcohol and tobacco on the South Side.

“He came from a good family and I believe they instilled in him positive messages. He took those positive messages and used them for the betterment of our communities,” Fioretti said. “To me, it’s people like Paul Davis who was a true hero. He made a true difference in our community. He will be missed. I know I miss him.”

Mr. Davis, a Chicago native, was the oldest of five children. Nicknamed “Jet,” Mr. Davis was a track star and football player at Hirsch High School and Simpson College in Iowa. He was even invited to compete in the 1980 Olympic trials.

Throughout his life, Mr. Davis remained loyal to his family. When his nephew, Glenn Davis, landed a role in the Broadway production “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo,” alongside Robin Williams, Mr. Davis was there on opening night.

“As he was passing away, he said I was like a son to him,” Glenn Davis said. “I always felt that way, like he was a father figure to me. He would always have positive words and encouragement.”

There was a soft side to Paul Davis. He fell in love with Douglas’ dog “Twink,” a miniature Yorkie. He would get ribbed when he was seen walking the dog.

“He loved my dog,” she said, laughing.

On the day that Mr. Davis passed, Twink was right there, she said.

“She was curled up next to him.”

Mr. Davis is survived by his mother, Shirley; brothers, Michael and Glenn and sister, Cheryl Lynn. His father, John, preceded him in death as did his brother, Tracy.

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