By Nicole Hamilton
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Jacob E. Davis, a former president and chief executive officer of the Kroger Company, often said: "The rewards of the mind and heart are so much more important than those of the pocketbook. They are the only rewards that really count."
The 26-year employee of the company (1944-70)handled a variety of functions, from labor relations to personnel to the supervision of the operations of many retail stores.
But outside of the office, he was a tireless volunteer who once served as the president and chairman of the board for the Community Chest and Council and was a founder of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. A former congressman and Navy official, he also had served as chairman of the Ohio State University board of trustees and also had been president of OSU's National Alumni Association.
The Kenwood resident died Friday in Naples, Fla., where he took frequent vacations. He was 97.
Raised in Beaver, Ohio, Mr. Davis graduated in 1927 from Ohio State, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He continued his education at Harvard University, where he earned a law degree in 1930.
He practiced law in Waverly, Ohio, after graduating from Harvard, and served two terms as Pike County prosecuting attorney. Twice, the Democrat was elected to the Ohio General Assembly, and served as the majority floor leader during his second term, before he became a judge for the Pike County Common Pleas Court in 1937.
From 1941 until 1943, Mr. Davis was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. During his tenure, he also served as a special assistant to the secretary of the Navy, in addition to being assistant general counsel for the Navy.
Mr. Davis joined Kroger in October 1944 as a vice president. He became executive vice president in 1961 and then president and chief executive officer in March 1962, positions he held until his retirement in 1970.
His passion for volunteering led him to help establish the Greater Cincinnati Foundation in 1963. He served as first chairman of its governing board and the volunteer director of the foundation from 1978 until 1986.
Upon his retirement from the foundation, the governing board created the Jacob E. Davis Volunteer Leadership Award. The award of $10,000 is presented annually to an outstanding leader in the community, who donates the money to a nonprofit organization of his or her choice.
Mr. Davis headed the 1957-58 United Appeal campaign and later served as president and chairman of the board of the Community Chest and Council. He and Walter L. Lingle Jr. served as co-chairman of the Citizen's Committee to Improve Local Government.
For 30 years, he served on the Board of Bethesda Inc., and was its chairman from 1975 to 1990. For his contributions, the Ohio Hospital Association honored him as a trustee of the year in 1982.
Mr. Davis was honored as one of the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce's Great Living Cincinnatians in 1977; and was a recipient of the United Way's prestigious Alexis de Tocqueville Award in 1987.
He served on the corporate boards of the Kroger Co., Cincinnati Milacron Inc., Anchor Hocking Corp., and the Ohio National Life Insurance Company.
Mr. Davis was a member of the Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church, and served on its board of trustees for several years.
His wife, Minnie Eleanor Davis, died in 2000.
Surviving are a son, Jacob E. Davis II of Columbus; a daughter, Eleanor Davis Nelson of Mount Washington; a sister, Mary Nancy Davis of Columbus; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
Memorial service will be 4 p.m., Thursday at Hyde Park Community Methodist Church, 1345 Grace Ave., Hyde Park.
Visitation will follow.
Memorials: The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, 200 W. 4th St., Cincinnati, 45202, or to The Bethesda Foundation, 10500 Montgomery Road, Cincinnati 45242.
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