William Virginius “Bill” Davis, Jr., was born Jan. 28, 1902, in Savannah, Ga., son of William V. Davis and Winifred Bonney Davis. He attended public school in Savannah and entered the US Naval Academy from the first congressional district of Georgia Aug. 5, 1920. As a midshipman he participated in swimming and lacrosse. He was graduated and commissioned ensign on June 5, 1924, and subsequently attained the rank of Vice admiral from Aug.1, 1956.
Upon graduation from the Naval Academy June 5, 1924, he was assigned to USS Idaho (BB 42). He served in that battleship until January 1926, when he reported to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, for flight training, completing the course and designated Naval Aviator the following January. He was then assigned duty with Fighter Squadron 6 and bombing Squadron 2 of Aircraft Squadrons, Battle Fleet, attached to USS Langley (CV 1), and later to USS Saratoga (CV 2). During this period until June 1929, he participated the Dole Air Races, Oakland, Calif., to Honolulu. He was the navigator of the winning plane, the Woolaroc. For his actions he received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
He was also a member of the Navy’s first aerial stunt team “The Three Sea Hawks” and the National Air Races of 1928, Los Angles.
He served as an instructor at the Naval Air Station from July 1929 until June 1932, when he was ordered to the USS Saratoga (CV 2) as Landing Signal Officer. Except for 2 years when stationed at the Naval Air Station, Anacostia, D.C. As Flight Test Officer, he served at sea from June 1932, until June 1941, with aircraft squadrons of the Fleet aboard USS Saratoga (CV 2), USS Concord (CL-10), USS Idaho (BB-42) and USS Yorktown (CV 5), the last year of this period in command of Torpedo Squadron 5, based on Yorktown.
In June 1941, he was ordered to then Naval Air Station, Norfolk, to establish the Aircraft Armament Unit, and served as Officer in Charge of that unit until July 1943. In August he was transferred to duty with the Air Force. Pacific Fleet and in October of that year was appointed Chief of Staff of Commander Aircraft, Central Pacific Force. From May until December 1944, he served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations to Commander Shore-Based Air Force, Forward Area, Central Pacific; and as Chief of Staff, Headquarters Strategic Air Force, Pacific Ocean Areas from December 1944 until January 1945.
In May 1945, he assumed command of USS Tulagi (CVE 72) which was supporting operations at Okinawa. When detached from that command, he was ordered in January 1946, to duty as Project Coordinator Operational Development Force, Atlantic Fleet, commanded by Admiral R.P. Briscoe, based at Norfolk. In April 1947, he reported as Director of Flight Tests, at the Naval Air Test Center Patuxent, Md. During this period he became the second Naval Aviator to fly faster than the speed of sound in the Douglas D558-2 “Skyrocket” in August 1949. He was also awarded the National Air Council awarded for his work in high altitude jet flight, and development work in helicopters. In August 1950, he became Commanding Officer of the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB 42).
Returning to the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, in August 1951, he commanded that activity until January 1952, when he was ordered to report to duty in the Office of Naval Operations, Navy Department. In April 1952, he became Navy Deputy Commander, Field Command, Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, Albuquerque, N.M., and from February1955 until February 1956 Commander Carrier Division 5 in both the eastern and western Pacific waters. He served as Assistant Chief of Naval Operations (Fleet Readiness), Navy Department, until July 1956, when he was ordered to duty as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air), and appointed vice admiral. In May 1958, he was appointed Deputy Commander in Chief U.S. Atlantic Fleet, where he served until his retirement from active duty on April 1, 1960.
In addition to the Legion of Merit and Distinguished Flying Cross, Davis has the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; American Campaign Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal, Europe and Asia Clasps; and the National Defense Service Medal. In May 1957 he was awarded The Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand, 1st Class.
He was married to the former Miss Margret Cary of Pensacola, Florida (deceased 1986) and they had four children, Judith Cary Davis (Mrs. John W. Kuncas), Mary Winifred Davis (Mrs. David W. Cockfield) (deceased 2009), William V. Davis, III (deceased 2010) and Margret Wright Davis (Mrs. Robert J. Martin) of Mobile Alabama.
He is a Honorary member of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences and and Honorary Fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. Until his death in July 25, 1981, he resided in Fairhope Ala., where he was a member of the Rotary Club of Mobile. He was an invited guest speaker at the University of South Alabama and the Fairhope Book Club.
He was an active Ham Radio operator since 1919, and among other hobbies he enjoyed fishing, hunting, golf, photography, carpentry and electronics. He was buried at the Pensacola Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.