A New York City Councilman, who was gunned down in a peculiar instance of skewed political rivalry inside City Hall, was recalled for his charisma and anti-violence measures at a prayer vigil in Fort Greene on the fifth anniversary of his assassination.
Councilman James E. Davis, who represented the 35th District now overseen by Councilmember Leticia James, was eulogized in word and prayer at the commemoration, which was hosted by Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries and Rev. Clinton Miller and attended by members of the community at the corner of St. James Place and DeKalb Avenue.
The 41-year-old Democrat was a rising party star before he was gunned down on July 23, 2003, across the street from his alma mater, by Othniel Askew, who had campaigned for the lawmaker but held a grudge stemming from accusations of political fraud after Askew failed to file paperwork on time.
Askew had accompanied Davis to a council meeting that day, bypassing metal detectors because of a civility afforded to council members and their guests. At around 2 p.m., he fired a silver .40 caliber handgun at Davis, striking him twice in the chest before a plainclothes cop stopped him in his tracks by returning fire.
Despite attempts by paramedics to revive him, Davis, a retired police and correction officer (who was carrying a holstered gun at the time) died later alongside his killer at New York University’s Beekman Downtown Hospital.
In 1990, Davis organized the “Love Yourself, Stop the Violence” marches in urban America to provide relief in the wake of the Crown Heights riots
“He was a transitional figure,” former Brooklyn Heights councilman Ken Fisher reportedly recalled, adding, “He did not come out of old style club politics. And he did not come out of the Clarence Norman machine. In some ways he was threat to them, because he had an independent base in the community.”
Davis’s other posthumous tributes include the James E. Davis Multi-Cultural Peace Breakfast/Memorial, which takes place on the anniversary of his death at City Hall, and the James E. Davis Foundation, co-founded by his brother Geoffrey Davis.