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Alumni Profile: Dr. James W. Davis


By Annie Rhoades

 

Dr. Davis holding the 1909
Ole Miss annual.

Collecting all types of Ole Miss memorabilia is a common practice among alumni, but very few can boast owning the entire Ole Miss yearbook collection. Meet alumnus and professor Dr. James W. Davis (BBA 62, MS 63, PhD 72).

After graduating from Ole Miss in 1963, Davis moved to Houston, Texas for two years to practice accounting with Arthur Andersen. However, Davis quickly learned the move was temporary.

“I received a rare opportunity at the age of 25 to teach at my alma mater and I didn’t turn it down,” said Davis.

A Panola County native, Davis’ interest in accounting began at Sardis High School under the direction of his bookkeeping teacher, Thelma Taylor.

“She was my favorite teacher,” said Davis. “You know where in some courses, such as literature or mathematics, somebody else would lead the class – I always led the class in bookkeeping.” 

Currently in his 49th year of teaching accountancy at the university, Davis unknowingly began his extensive yearbook collection years ago.

“I had gotten a yearbook for my five years in school and then I started buying an annual every year because I knew a lot of students,” said Davis. “And so I said, ‘Well gosh, I’ve got 35 yearbooks. I guess I’m a collector!’”

Davis soon began scouring the area, rummaging through used and rare bookstores to fill in the gaps in his collection.

“I found them in Jackson, Memphis, New Orleans and lots of places,” said Davis. “Soon after that is when the internet possibilities came like eBay, and I also had friends in Mississippi who had relatives that had attended Ole Miss during some of those years and were willing to sell their yearbooks to me.”

Davis eventually acquired every yearbook except for the 1904 and 1905 editions.

“I had never found either in a used bookstore,” said Davis. “I knew a friend who had the two and in The Godfather movie language, I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. He knew I would give them a nice home.”
 

 

William Faulkner signed annual illustration.
Davis has made monetary investments while acquiring his collection, but the current market price for some of his most-prized William Faulkner annuals far exceeds those investments.

“Some of the Faulkner yearbooks are very expensive,” said Davis. “Right now if you look on eBay and search for Ole Miss yearbooks, you would find that 1920 & 1921, and I believe Faulkner is in the 1921, they’re asking $7,000 for those two books.”

While Davis is passionate when it comes to collecting Ole Miss yearbooks, he’s even more fervent about teaching.

“I just love teaching accounting,” said Davis. “Accounting rules, principles, etc. change over time and I just feel it’s immensely interesting. I love watching students who start from square one, move to living here and passing the CPA exam and having a successful career.”

Dr. Davis received the university-wide Outstanding Teacher Award in 1985 and received the Patterson School’s outstanding teacher awards in 1983, 1988, 1993, 2004 and 2008. He received the Mississippi Society’s Outstanding Educator Award in 1993. The Sigma Nu alumnus was recently honored when the Epsilon Xi Chapter named their house, the Peery-Davis Sigma Nu House.

Serving as Dean of the Patterson School of Accountancy from 1993-2002, Davis couldn’t be more proud of the school’s recent no. 4 ranking as a top accounting school in the country and how far the program has come.

“If you had asked me when I first started teaching if we ever would rank no. 4 in the country, I would say not in my wildest dreams,” said Davis. “Over the years we have established a strong teaching tradition. We are a professional school turning out meaningful research.”

Davis foresees the program continuing to thrive under the leadership of faculty and staff and support from the chancellor and accounting school alumni.

As for his future, Davis plans to continue amassing his collection each year.

“I don’t display them or have them all in one place anymore,” said Davis. “The collection is quite voluminous, it fills up an entire room.”
 


Dr. Davis pictured with a portion of his complete Ole Miss yearbook collection.

 

 

 

 

Dr. James W. Davis is a Sustaining Life Member of the Ole Miss Alumni Association.

Dr. Davis, Ole Miss thanks you.

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