Journalist and Philanthropist Evelyn Y. Davis Dies

Evelyn Y. Davis, pioneering financial journalist and generous philanthropist, died Sunday in Washington, D.C. She was 89.

For five decades, Davis was editor and publisher of the investor newsletter “Highlights and Lowlights” and a corporate shareholder advocate who was unafraid to scold titans of the financial world.

Bloomberg News eulogized her as the “Queen of Shareholder Activism” who confronted the likes of Warren Buffett, Henry Paulson and Laurence Tisch. The Wall Street Journal called her a “Longtime Scourge of CEOs.”

She gave away millions of dollars through the Evelyn Y. Davis Foundation, including generous donations to journalism. The National Press Foundation received more than $1 million from Davis in the last decade, including a generous gift that built a state-of-the-art broadcast studio.

“Mrs. Davis loved journalism as a way of getting the truth out, especially in the world of finance, where she felt senior leaders were often unaccountable to shareholders,” said NPF president emeritus Bob Meyers, who worked directly with her. “She encouraged NPF to pursue this kind of digging, and provided a generous endowment to do it. In appreciation, NPF named its broadcast studio in her honor.”

Added Kathy Gest, chair of NPF’s board of directors: “NPF has lost a good friend in Evelyn Y. Davis.  Her dedication to seeking accountability and truthfulness through journalism will be missed but her legacy will carry on. Her generous endowment to NPF is an important resource as we work to make good journalists better.”

The National Press Foundation has produced more than 80 webinars from the Evelyn Y. Davis Studios and scores of video tutorials, reaching thousands of journalists across the globe. “Evelyn Y. Davis’ memory will live on for many years to come through NPF content generated in the studio named for her,” said Sandy K. Johnson, current president and COO of NPF.

Davis was born Aug. 16, 1929, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, as she self-described, “on the wrong side of the ocean but the very right side of the tracks.” A Holocaust survivor, Davis immigrated to Baltimore, Maryland, during World War II to join her father, a neurologist who taught at Johns Hopkins University. She graduated from Catonsville (Maryland) High School in 1947 and attended Western Maryland College and George Washington University before beginning her legendary investing career.

From 1965 until 2011, Davis published “Highlights and Lowlights,” a newsletter that covered the Washington scene, corporate governance, executive compensation, location and dates of corporate meetings, and the issues and votes on numerous shareholder proposals. She owned stock in more than 80 corporations and regularly attended shareholder meetings throughout the United States. She was a regular contributor to many national television shows.

A statement from her lawyer said she died peacefully at the Washington Hospital Center. She had been divorced four times and had no children. Davis will be laid to rest in historic St. Paul’s Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C., and memorialized at a private service at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C.

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