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Harry Lee Davis Papers

Identifier: SC-MS-125

Scope and Contents

This collection contains the papers of Wilmington artist Harry Lee Davis (1949-2018). Included newspaper articles, correspondence, business agreements, and publicity materials documenting his career as an artist with an emphasis on local exhibition and marketing. Additionally, this collection contains limited edition prints of Davis' work.


  • Creation: 1984-2008


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Copyright Statement

Copyright retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Biographical Note

Harry Lee Davis was born on June 25, 1949 at Community Hospital in Wilmington, North Carolina to Anna Ray Simpson Davis and Charles Edward Davis, Sr. He attended public schools in Wilmington and graduated from Williston High School in 1967. After graduation, he joined the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Bragg as a military policeman. In 1970, a fellow military policeman's gun accidentally discharged and shot Davis, who suffered a severe spinal cord injury and was thereafter confined to a wheelchair.

After Davis' injury, he rediscovered an interest in art and also chose to enter college at UNC Wilmington. He graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Sociology in 1979. As a self-taught artist, Davis primarily worked with oil paints and became known for his use of bold bright colors. He described his style as impressionistic realism in bright, vivid colors. Much of his work portrays scenes from African life, the rural American South, and spirituality, however he has also incorporated his personal interests including boxing and music.

Davis has exhibited his work in group and solo exhibitions across the country. He was the recipient of many awards and honors during his career for his work and his service to the community, including the following: Wilmington Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (1974); Special Volunteer from the State of North Carolina (1981); Handicapped Citizen of the Year (1983); Blue Ribbon and Honorable Mention, National Rehabilitation Association Art Show (1985, 1986); Greenwood Middle School Friend of the Arts, Goldsboro, N.C. (1996); Esther Paige-Hill Award (1997); Best in Show, N.C. Azalea Festival (2001); Man of the Year, Town Hall Community Education and Cultural Center (2001); Featured artist for the 59th N.C. Azalea Festival (2006); Best of Show Award, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (2013).

Davis passed away on February 10, 2018.


2 Containers (Contains 1 document box and 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials


Harry Lee Davis Papers
Abigail Clanton
2022 January 28
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Randall Library Special Collections Repository