Before They Were Educators: Dr. James Davis


(Editor’s Note: The following is the fourth part of a series of articles looking at the lives of WCU faculty and staff before they were educators.)

What was your high school mascot? The Tigers? The Bulldogs? The Mustangs? Western Carolina University’s assistant professor of Spanish and French Dr. James Davis graduated from The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham in 1986, where he was able to call himself a proud Unicorn. That’s right, his high school mascot was the big, bad, majestical Unicorn.

Proudly representing the Unicorns, Davis was extremely active in school; he played soccer, tennis and was a member of the swim team. Aside from his athletic involvement with school, Davis said, “I was also very much a band geek. (And still am).”

Davis’ fluency in and love of various languages can be traced back to his teenage years. Davis’ favorite bands growing up could be described as eclectic at best and originate from all over the world; to name a few, Big Country, a rock band from Scotland who engineered their guitars to resemble the sounds produced by their traditional bag pipes, Talk Talk, an English, new wave, pop band who were popular in the U.K, and Men at Work, the only Australian rock band to have a simultaneous hit single and album in the United States. Davis’ diverse taste in music is only of his unique, humanlike qualities that we as students tend to overlook when he is standing in front of us lecturing in a foreign language.    

Aside from being an avid music lover and versatile athlete, Davis also had an extraordinary taste in television in his youth. His favorite shows included Fantasy Island and Bewitched. Davis described his taste in television shows by saying, “Anything mystical or magical caught my interest.” Davis’ first car shows his uniqueness, a 1980 Chevrolet Citation.

Vacations are an essential part of school and often the times we remember the most. Davis’ remembered one vacation he took with his friend Brenda, to the beach. The vacation was as normal as any other, until Davis and Brenda fell asleep in the sun and didn’t wake up until 11 p.m. When they woke up they were both sunburned on one side of their bodies, leaving the other side, “China white.” Davis remembered the vacation and said, “We looked ridiculous!”

While sitting in any one of Dr. Davis’ class, or as he insist to be called, Jamie, his energetic, light-hearted, teaching methods make it hard to believe that Davis’ has spent so much of his time in school and as a police officer, before ever becoming a teacher. Davis attended UNC-Chapel Hill for his B.A., Georgia State for his M.A. and then the University of Georgia for his Ph.D.

Davis’ well-rounded childhood carried over into the hobbies he has as an adult. Davis enjoys a wide range activates including jetskiing, whitewater rafting, playing video games on the Wii or Xbox 360, shooting guns and writing short stories.

Before becoming a teacher, Davis served as a police officer for 14 years. His experience with law enforcement definitely shows in the classroom and was also evident when he was asked, did you ever get in trouble as a kid? Davis’ response was understandably, “I plead the Fifth!!!” Davis’ work as a police officer is also evident when it comes to his tattoos; he has a tattoo on both his right and left arms. On the left, he has a police flag and on the right he has three interlocking sets of handcuffs.

While serving as a police officer, Davis once arrested a woman for possession of methamphetamine. Davis handcuffed her and placed her in the patrol car. She began to, what Davis’ thought was hyperventilate. Davis said, “In an attempt to be humane and kind, I rolled down the window to give her some air. When I arrived at the jail with her and was waiting for the detention officers to open the garage door, I heard a loud slam.  I looked around and the woman had moved her handcuffs in front of her and had reached out the open window and opened the door from the outside and escaped!  She had been faking!  I chased after her, we both fell down a hill and I landed right on top of her.  I squished her somewhat, (I was a lot more portly then than I am now)!  She then unleashed (in the presence of my colleagues, who had by this time come running to assist) a tirade of insults about my largeness and my doughnut diet.  I responded by telling her that I had still caught her TWICE, doughnuts or not!”

I believe it’s safe to say that his experiences as a police officer more than prepared him to wrangle a classroom full of college students.