Richard Davis (1930-2023)

September 18, 2023

We joined the rest of the world in mourning musician, teacher, and activist Richard Davis when we received the news he had passed away on September 6, 2023, here in Madison. He was 93. Davis was Professor of Bass, Jazz History and combo improvisation at UW–Madison from 1977-2016. There have been many obituaries, remembrances, and appreciations published since his passing. We recommend visiting the memorial site created by his daughter Persia Davis to read the messages posted on the Memory Wall, and perhaps share your condolences and/or memories.

Memorial display for Richard Davis in Mills Music Library. CDs, LPs, a DVD, a book, and his obituary are on a circular tabletop.

We assembled a selection of recordings from our collection Davis made as a leader and ones on which he appeared with others for a memorial display in the library, and still had plenty left over from which to choose for a display of LPs on one of our walls. We’re not sure if any library has all the recordings Davis made, given that they number over 3,000, but we have hundreds.

10 LPs featuring Richard Davis as a leader or as a contributing musician framed and hung on the wall in Mills Music Library as a memorial display

We are honored to house the Richard Davis Collection, which is comprised of papers, photos, media, posters, correspondence, and recordings. The collection focuses primarily on his teaching career, his research interests, and his activities related to fighting racism. We included a selection of materials from the Richard Davis Collection in the New and Notable at UW-Madison Libraries exhibition in Special Collections earlier this year, which gave attendees a glimpse at the sorts of treasures it contains.

Exhibition display case including photos, print materials, cassettes, CDs, and a VHS tape from the Richard Davis Collection
Richard Davis Collection selections

We received these materials from his family within the past year, and we are still working on processing the collection to prepare it for use by patrons. We will promote the collection once it’s processed and provide access to the materials to all who are interested in learning more about Davis.