Dr. King Davis was appointed executive director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health in April 2003 and held the position until 2008.
Raised in Arkansas and Oklahoma, Davis attended California State University at Fresno, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work in 1964 and 1966, respectively.
During his undergraduate studies, Davis’ field placements with former patients at the state hospitals ignited his interest in mental health. Upon completing his master’s degree, Davis began a three-year tour in the Army as chief of social work services at Walson Army Hospital in Fort Dix, New Jersey, where he supervised a unit that provided intake and mental health services to wounded soldiers returning from Vietnam. After being honorably discharged in 1969 at the rank of captain, Davis decided to pursue a doctorate at Brandeis University.
In 1971, Davis completed a doctorate in social policy and management that focused on African American philanthropic organizations. During the next three decades, Davis held numerous academic and government positions, including posts as the director of community mental health (1970s) and the commissioner of mental health and mental retardation (1990s) for the state of Virginia.
In 1999, Davis accepted an endowed faculty position in the School of Social Work at The University of Texas that was named for the Hogg Foundation’s inaugural director, Robert Sutherland. In 2003, he became the fourth executive director in the foundation’s history.
As executive director of the Hogg Foundation, he led the effort to establish a competitive process for awarding grants to achieve greater results with the foundation's limited funds. In 2005, as part of its strategic planning process, foundation staff members met with state and national stakeholders to identify critical areas in which the foundation's grant-making could have a significant impact. Through this process the foundation selected three priority funding areas: integrated health care, cultural competence and workforce development.
The foundation, under Davis’ leadership, also renewed its interest in policy, which had been of profound importance in the organization’s early decades but had not been a priority for some time.
He has written and published numerous articles and reports on mental health, managed health care, fundraising, and social justice. His book "The Color of Social Policy" was published in 2004. He served on the Surgeon General's Workgroup on Mental Health, Culture, Race and Ethnicity and helped write the report on cultural competence for the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health in 2003.
His numerous awards and honors include the Austin-Travis County Mental Health Center Garnet Coleman Eternal Flame Award, the Council on Social Work Education Lifetime Achievement Award and the Teaching Excellence Award from The University of Texas at Austin.
Davis stepped down as executive director of the foundation in 2008, returning to teaching and researching full time until his retirement. He held the Robert Lee Sutherland Chair in Mental Health and Social Policy in UT Austin's School of Social Work from 2000 to 2014, and in 2012 was appointed founding director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis.
His research and teaching at the university focused on public mental health policy, the provision of culturally competent mental health services, health care for the mentally ill and disparities in rates of illness and services for people of color.
In 2014 Davis retired from his position at the university, but he has continued to do research and in 2015 received a $763,000 grant, along with two colleagues at UT Austin, to develop and field-test a digital infrastructure for preserving and managing the historical public records of the Central Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane in Petersburg, Virginia.