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Willis "Bing" Hoke Davis papers

Identifier: MSD-1959-013

Scope and Contents

Photographs, honors, awards, programs, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, press releases, correspondence and biographical information.


  • 1955 - 2023

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright interests for this collection are held by DePauw University.

Biographical Note

Willis “Bing” Davis matriculated at DePauw University in 1955 with assistance from his Wilbur Wright High School, Dayton, Ohio, basketball coach and mentor, Dean Dooley. He majored in art education with a focus in ceramics under Richard E. Peeler ’49. When Davis arrived on campus during his first year, he was one of only two African-American students in his class. During the mid-late 1950s, there were less than ten African-American students on DePauw’s campus. His Longdon dining hall boss and classmate was the late Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. Davis was a member of the basketball and track teams where his athletic gifts made him a top competing athlete. He played forward for the basketball team and was a high jumper on the track squad. Davis earned all-conference honors in basketball, led the team in points scored and scoring average.

Upon graduating from DePauw in 1959, he returned to Dayton, Ohio to teach art at Colonel White High School. Davis attended the Dayton Art Institute and earned his Master of Education degree from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, in 1967. His approach to art was learned from his mentor, Richard E. Peeler, for whom the DePauw Art Center is named and who was [his] teacher, academic advisor and, when Davis taught at DePauw for six years, his colleague. A notable experience for Davis was during his first solo exhibit in 1961. By surprise, Peeler adjusted his flight to Japan to view his exhibit in Dayton, Ohio. It remains one of the highlights of [his] art career.

Davis returned to DePauw in 1970, serving as the assistant dean of art and the coordinator of Black Studies. His decision was influenced by the fact that Peeler was still on the faculty. Davis became the first African-American faculty member to be hired full-time. Notably, he taught African art and African-American art, a curriculum not offered when he was a student at the university. Davis was passionate about making sure his students had what he didn’t have. In 1976, he left DePauw to return to his alma mater, Miami University, after being offered tenure. The decision to leave was based on the lack of African-American students and faculty on campus. Accepting tenure would have meant not only accepting the circumstances but accepting them with a lifetime contract and no guarantee of change.

Davis remains an integral part of the DePauw community through his service, such as providing a lecture during Black Cultural Weekend in 1985; serving as the alumni convocation speaker in 1986; participating in a “Coming Together” panel discussion during 2000, and providing a book and video signing in 2004. Additionally, he received an Alumni Citation Award in 1984 and served as a member of the DePauw Board of Visitors beginning in 1985. He was inducted to the 1991 DePauw Athletics Hall of Fame for men’s basketball and men’s track and field. In 1997, he received a Doctor of Fine Arts honorary degree. Davis is a member of the DePauw Alumni of Color Advisory Council and Friends of the Arts Council.


The DePauw Staff, “DePauw's First African-American Professor Connects Athletics, Art and Diversity.” The DePauw, February 25, 2016.

Anderson, S. Alexis. “Ridin' on the Groove Line with Bing Davis.” Black Art in America, April 10, 2019.

“Bing Davis: Excerpt from Peeler Pottery: A Retrospective.” DePauw University, 2009.

“DePauw Commencement Program.” DePauw Digital Library, May 1997.

Dieter, Mary. “How to Create Art.” DePauw Magazine, 2021. “Willis Bing Davis's Biography.” The HistoryMakers, March 20, 2006.


.43 Cubic Feet (1 document case)

Language of Materials


Jenney Taylor; Bethany Fiechter
5/4/2020; 5/10/2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Archives of DePauw University and Indiana United Methodism Repository

Roy O. West Library
405 S. Indiana St.
Greencastle Indiana 46135 United States