High-flying attorney dedicates self to service
By Sully Witte, The Moultrie News
In just 48 short years, Mount Pleasant attorney J. Brooks Davis has been a stockbroker, an entrepreneur, a blues musician, an aircraft repo man, an aircraft salesman, a commercial pilot and flew into New York City on 9/11, personally witnessing the attack on the World Trade Center from the cockpit, attended the FBI’s new agent training program and was chief pilot for the Charleston Police Department as well as a patrol and motorcycle officer. Presently Davis is an attorney in Mount Pleasant focusing on aviation, criminal defense and civil litigation ().
In between, Davis has co-founded and owned several businesses including DavisAir, a Charleston-based aircraft charter/management company (www.davisair.com) and several aircraft dealerships. After leaving the Charleston Police Department, he attended the Charleston School of Law.
The common denominator here is a desire to serve the public and it stems from Davis’ personal experience regarding the infamous attacks of Sept. 11.
Davis was born in Pittsburgh and attended the University of South Carolina where he majored in finance. He went on to work with Merrill Lynch in investment banking, but found it wasn’t quite what he’d hoped it would be. After two years, he and his father started an aviation charter company with just two planes and five employees. They eventually grew it to 24 aircraft and 120 employees. Today a more streamlined version of the company still operates from the Charleston International Airport offering private charter and aircraft management services.
In September 2001, Davis, unexpectedly, was dispatched to fly four executives from Pittsburgh to Morristown, New Jersey.
They left Pittsburgh at 8 a.m., Sept. 11, and as they flew into the New York metro area, the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center.
Flying at 3,000 feet and 10 miles away on their approach to Morristown, Davis snapped a photo from the cockpit. No one knew exactly what it was.
His aircraft was not diverted and he conducted a normal landing. It was too early to know what was happening. But by the time he went to the pilots briefing room at the airport in New Jersey, the second plane had hit the South Tower and it was evident the country was under attack.
Davis was grounded in New Jersey for three days. Long enough to contemplate the calling he felt to public service.
Davis ultimately applied to the FBI and was accepted to the new agent training program within a year, – far faster than normal acceptances, as the FBI was recruiting fixed-wing pilots in response to 9/11 .
He reported to Quantico, Virginia, leaving behind his wife and newborn son in Pittsburgh while he trained.
However, four months into training, he sustained an injury that was slow to heal. The FBI kept him in Quantico while he underwent rehabilitation. All the while he watched classes that came in after him go on to graduate.
After being gone for six months, he began to see the strain his absence was having on his family. He made the difficult decision of withdrawing from the program and returning home.
The urge to remain in law enforcement stayed with him. By now his father had been living in Charleston for some time. Davis and his family had visited a lot and knew the area. The Charleston Police Department just happened to be looking for a chief pilot to oversee their aviation division consisting of a helicopter, aircraft and team of six. Davis went on to combine his love of being a pilot and a police officer, moved to Charleston and accepted a position with the Charleston Police Department where he served in patrol, traffic and as chief pilot.
But his son was growing up and the long hours at the department and the danger police officers face every day were becoming all too apparent.
Davis switched his focus the another side of the law and enrolled in Charleston School of Law.
“As a police officer, there were times I would arrest the same person more than once a week. I referred to them as ‘frequent fliers.’ I’d watch them bond out, while I still had an hour’s worth of paperwork to do. There are so many inadequate laws on the books,” Davis said. “I wanted to do something that would have more impact than simply enforcing laws that I saw as inadequate or possibly have a hand in changing laws through case precedent.”
“I like enjoy the intellectual challenge of being an attorney and seeing justice done,” he said. “I’ll take cases others won’t because of the challenge, and if I see merit in the action.”
Davis said he enjoys arguing (in court): “It’s like a chess game and one must stay five to six moves ahead of their opponent, understand each case from several angles and be constantly prepared to change strategy or direction.”
Philanthropy is important to Davis.
The thing nearest and dearest to his heart is his son, Matthew. Having always ensured he gets the best quality education and watching him thrive, Davis wanted to make sure others have those same opportunities.
Davis is also very passionate about his community and those who serve the country. He earmarks his charitable giving to the Park West Campus Education Fund and other veterans’ charities. Davis said that because schools are underfunded and overcrowded, and more often than not, teachers spend their own money on classroom supplies, he wants his donations to offset that. He is also willing to help educators, first responders, military and veterans with legal problems free of charge.
Davis said his mentor – his hero really – is his father who still runs DavisAir out of Charleston International Airport.
And being the proud father that he his, Davis hopes his legacy will be his son.
“People sometimes ask me with all the things I have done in my life, what would I want to be remembered for? The answer is simple. I want to be known as a good father. That’s enough,” he said.
Davis has experienced and done an abundance of things in his life, mimicking his favorite poem by Robert Frost – “The Road Not Taken.”
Therefore it’s no surprise that his motto in life has, and will always be “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.”