Joyce L. Davis, 57, Raleigh lawyer with 'a passion for justice'

Staff WriterFebruary 15, 2006 

One colleague called Joyce L. Davis a dogged lawyer who rested only when she got justice for her clients.

"She was amazing. There is nothing she would not do for a client," said Laura Wetsch , who has practiced at Joyce L. Davis & Associates in downtown Raleigh for seven years. "Some [defense lawyers say] she was a pit bull. She was a nice pit bull -- but if she got her teeth into something, she did not let go.

"It didn't matter if the client could afford to pay for that case or not," Wetsch said. "To her, it was more important to help people than it was to make money or to be known as somebody who was important."

Davis, 57, was a woman who exuded energy until she was struck with a cerebral hemorrhage a week ago. She died Saturday.

Davis was raised in Charlotte and received her undergraduate and law degrees at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she was president of the Student Bar Association at a time when there were few female law students.

"I think she wanted to be a lawyer because she had a passion for justice and really wanted to do her part to make a difference with people who needed a helping hand with legal problems," said her husband, Raleigh architect Chris McClure.

Davis was an employment law specialist. In 2001, she won a settlement from a Methodist church in Cary for two female employees who accused the pastor of sexual harassment.

Davis also was remembered as a devoted mother and civic leader.

She adored her grandchild, 14-month-old Morgan, and framed a sonogram image of the little girl before she was born.

Davis and McClure met in 1973 and married in less than a year.

Their daughter, Virginia Wade, teaches nursing at East Carolina University. Their son, Andrew McClure, is an architect intern in Italy.

McClure said his wife of 31 years was his soulmate. Her funeral is 5 p.m. today at St. Giles Presbyterian Church in Raleigh.

"It's a good thing I didn't meet Joyce earlier. She was an active pacifist -- in her college years especially -- and I was an officer in the Army special forces in the Vietnam War," McClure said. "But when we met, we just hit it off. We had so many things in common. She was a lovely young lady. How could I not fall in love with her?"

One of Davis' guiding principles was a take on Old Testament scripture: What does your God ask of you but to do justice, love kindness and to walk humbly before your God?

"And she lived that to the fullest," McClure said.

Staff writer Cindy George can be reached at 829-4656 or cgeorge@newsobserver.com.

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