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Davis McEntire (1912-1983)

Professor Emeritus

A mercifully short illness ended the life of Professor Davis McEntire on July 29, 1983. He is survived by his wife, Iras, son, Mark, daughter, Marian McEntire de Garcia, and grandsons Jorge and Pablo Garcia. He leaves a host of colleagues in the University who held him in high esteem.

McEntire was born on October 15, 1912, in Ogden, Utah, the oldest of nine children of Wells and Ida McEntire. When he was five, the family moved to a small farm near Preston, Idaho. At the time, life on a family farm was rugged and toilsome. That experience probably was the source of McEntire's later tolerance for sustained work, and certainly the source of his enduring interest in rural problems. After high school, he entered Utah State Agricultural College, majoring in agricultural economics and rural sociology. He excelled in both academic and extra-curricular pursuits. There he met fellow student, Iras Leavitt, already an accomplished pianist. They were married in 1932.

A teaching assistantship lured McEntire to Duke University, where he earned a Master's degree in Public Law and Economics (1933). During subsequent educational leaves from professional posts, spent at Harvard University, he earned a Master's of Public Administration (1941) and a Doctor of Philosophy in Economics (1947).

During the Roosevelt administration, McEntire served in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, conducting field studies of the effects of New Deal farm policy. By 1939 he had achieved the post of Senior Economist at the Department's Western Regional Office in Berkeley. During the 1940s, he served sequentially with the U.S. War Relocation Authority, the War Labor Board, and the U.N. Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. He then became Research Director of the Commonwealth Club of California.

McEntire's affiliation with our University began in 1947, when he joined the Institute of Industrial Relations on the Berkeley Campus. Simultaneously he became lecturer at the School of Social Welfare, where he progressed to Associate Professor in 1948 and Professor in 1953. In 1962 he accepted an additional appointment in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and held the dual professorships until his retirement in 1978.

McEntire's primary association at Berkeley was with the School of Social Welfare. As an experienced researcher, grounded in theory and methods of empirical social research, he taught the first graduate-level course in research methods offered by the School and supervised the introduction of the innovative Group Master's thesis. He created in the School a climate conducive to research by aiding less experienced colleagues and by assisting in the recruitment of competent junior faculty. The current reputation of the School was built upon the foundation laid down in good measure by McEntire. Not limiting his contribution to the research sequence, he developed a large repertoire of courses. He was a principal architect of the School's doctoral program and chaired it during its infant years in the early 1960s. In this, as in every other of his contributions, he directed the School toward the high standards expected in the University of California.

McEntire was uniquely suited by education and experience for his appointment in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. There he taught courses in American rural society and rural development in the less developed countries. For these he drew on his varied background in administration, economics, political science, and social welfare.

Grants and awards from the Ford, Guggenheim, and Rockefeller Foundations, as well as from other sources, enabled him to undertake research into such diverse topics as agricultural policy, farm labor, housing, internal migration, land reform, race relations, rural resettlement, and urban redevelopment. He was in demand as a consultant on matters of research and social policy, and also as a public speaker. His publications include books, monographs, articles, and chapters in symposia.

McEntire's magnum opus was the study he directed for the National Commission on Race and Housing. Conducted in the late 1950s, it focused on the nature and effects of discrimination obstructing minorities from equal access to housing. The study covered 12 metropolitan areas, engaged 35 experts, took three years, and produced five volumes. The report recommended legislation guaranteeing freedom to choose one's residence, arguing that while laws cannot compel attitudinal change, they can induce behavioral change, which eventually changes attitudes. The report received front-page treatment in both the New York Times and the Sunday Times Book Review section, and earned for him the annual prize for public service from the Sidney Hillman Foundation.

The horizon of McEntire's interest was international. Twice as Fulbright Fellow (1958, 1968), he lectured at major Italian universities. He delivered papers at conferences in Mexico City, Paris, and Tel Aviv. He investigated land reform in Italy, Ireland, Mexico, and Yugoslavia and edited a major volume on the agricultural policies of seven nations. In 1964 he was a U.S. State Department observer of Yugoslavian community-development projects.

In support of academic self-governance, McEntire gave unstintingly to service on Academic Senate committees, both campus and statewide. The record shows service on eight such committees for an aggregate of 19 years, of which nine years were as committee chairman. Five times he chaired the Committee on Educational Policy. He had vast knowledge of university affairs and great skill in maneuvering through the labyrinth of academe.

Our colleague personified the ideal university professor, excelling in all aspects of academic duties. He was especially effective in that ancient of pedagogical arts, the tutorial. Fortunate was the student who could enlist McEntire to supervise his dissertation. Because of his analytic mind, capacity for work, and sense of responsibility, his colleagues turned to him repeatedly with difficult tasks. Whatever he undertook, he performed with skill.

While his life was one of eminent success, he remained a modest man, never shedding the simplicity of his rural origins. Unburdened by prejudice and pettiness, he was free to use his abundant energy constructively. Soundly educated, widely traveled, and well informed, he possessed the attributes of a cultured man. He was a stimulating conversationalist and pleasant company. He was our gentle, amiable, and valued friend.