Published in The Washington Post on Jan. 28, 2018
MARTIS "Marty" DAVIS
DAVIS Martis Davis "Marty" (1944-2018) Martis Davis
was a pioneer in public relations and communications
and an educator.
A Washington DC resident for over 30 years, Martis
served as principal of Duke Ellington School of Arts from
1989 to 1993 during which time the school earned
multiple National Blue Ribbon School awards. He also
instituted the Shepherding Program for new students, a tradition that continues today. But
becoming a high school principal happened years after stellar achievements in the corporate
and public service world. Coming of age during the height of the Civil Rights era, Martis was
the first black man to do many things. He was the first black high school teacher at Woodrow
Wilson high school in Washington, DC.
His childhood friends recalled him as the only black kid in honor classes where he excelled in
all subjects. He directed and produced many grade school events. He was the first black
elected student government president in high school. Martis said that no one in his generation
"aspired' to work in PR or media because it was largely racially segregated. The idea was
planted in his mind after viewing actor Gregory Peck in a 1950s film called "The Man in the
Grey Flannel Suit.' He claimed that he "wound-up' in public relations when the field itself was
His career spanned public education, public affairs, public policy, public health, marketing
communications, crisis management, and advertising. His wide-ranging professional work
included senior stints in public relations at the Washington Post, UniWorld Group, Inc., AT&T,
Burson-Marsteller, New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, and ARRP. He served as
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services (HHS) during the Clinton administration.
Martis was also PR director at the Washington Post during the Watergate era. His claim to
fame was learning his craft from Ofield Dukes, known in DC as the black dean of public
A post at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies led to a career breakthrough.
Martis' first major campaign was to organize and direct the global press coverage of the
historic National Black Political Assembly (NBPA) held in Gary, Indiana in 1972. Working in
coordination with UniWorld, Inc. (UWG), the nation's oldest black advertising agency, this
landmark event attracted 8000 Black delegates, including radical nationalists like the Black
Panthers and moderate integrationists, such as the nation's first black elected officials and
nearly 900 global media outlets. The successful NBPA results led to Martis' employment at
UniWorld, Inc., as executive vice president of public relations and a plum assignment
promoting PBS film "This Far By Faith,' an AT&T sponsored national TV special.
Known for his dapper style, gentle manner and wry humor, Martis leaves a legacy of
excellence and community service. During retirement he was a Commissioner at ANC
Adams Morgan community. He collected turkeys for the homeless at Thanksgiving for Central
He credited his success to a strict mother and disciplined home training. Martis was known
for and often teased about his superior home skills such as cooking, cleaning, ironing, and
fastidious housekeeping. He also credited his mentors and believed that is what today's youth
truly need. Martis mentored many young people throughout his life. He devoted his last years
to mentoring youth at DC's Global Harmony through Personal Excellence reviewing their
essays and providing Christmas gifts.
Martis possessed an intense work ethic and ran his own consulting firm, Davis & Company.
History remained a lifelong hobby, especially World War II books, museum exhibits and
Martis was born in Atlanta, GA to Juanita Turner, a social worker and Martis Toussaint Davis,
a jazz musician on January 25, 1944.
Martis died on January 9, 2018 at home from complications related to pancreatic cancer. He
graduated from Gorton High School, Yonkers, NY. He earned a Bachelor's degree in history
from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale in 1966 and a Master's degree in 1975. He
continued studies at his alma mater and at Oxford in England.
Martis is survived by his Beloved Partner Sloan Rogers, her twin sister Raina Sloan; Sloan's
sons Stephen Nease, his wife Kim and Richard Nease; and stepchildren, Chelsie King
Garza, her husband Adam Blankenship, and Gabren King, his wife Loni and seven step
Martis was cremated. He requested that no funeral or memorials be held on his behalf. As
Martis always said: "Eeeezy!"