Leonard M. "Duke" Davis
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Leonard M.
"Duke" Davis

Local Historian Leonard M. "Duke" Davis, a native and life-long resident of Roseville, Calif., passed away on October 10, 2014 at the age of 88.
During his lifetime, he saw Roseville evolve from a small railroad town of less than 7,000 residents to one of the largest and most important cities in Northern California with a population of well over 100,000.
Duke, as he was known from boyhood, to family and friends, was born at home as were most Roseville children of his era. He was the second of three sons born to Charles W. and Anita M. (Shepard) Davis. An older brother, Charles Eugene, died in 1924 aged 16 months. A younger brother, Vernon C. passed away in 2003. He was 75.
Duke attended the old Vernon Street and Atlantic Street schools before enrolling at Roseville High School where he graduated in 1944. Like many of his classmates, he served in the armed forces during World War II. He participated in the Okinawa campaign, the last major battle of that global conflict.
Returning to civilian life in September 1946, Duke resumed his war interrupted education. He, like many other local veterans, enrolled at nearby Placer (now Sierra) College. While attending Placer, he worked as a playground supervisor for the recently organized Roseville Recreation Department. It was during this time that he found he liked working with youth and upon transferring to Sacramento State College in 1949 switched his major from Journalism to History and Education, a decision he never regretted.
Duke graduated from Sac State in 1951. The following year he received a general secondary teaching credential and Master of Arts degree from that same institution. He would later earn a pupil personnel counseling credential from San Diego State College.
Duke began a 41 year teaching career with the Grant Union High School District in the 1952-53 school year. In 1971, he transferred to the Los Rios Community College District where he spent the next 21 years teaching U.S. and California history at Cosumnes and American River Colleges. He retired from American River in June, 1993. During his 41 year teaching career, he only missed one day of work due to illness.
Duke's overseas experience during World War II spurred a life-long interest in other places and other cultures, and he spent many summer vacations travelling through Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin-America. These overseas ventures augmented by two summer-long seminars at the American University, Cairo, Egypt (1974) proved valuable assets in his teaching.
In 1964, Duke was appointed Centennial Historian for Roseville's 100th birthday. As part of that year-long celebration, he penned Roseville's first published history, "From Trail to Rail", which traced the town's history from its earliest days to incorporation in April of 1909.
This was the first of four books about Roseville written by Duke and published by the Roseville Community Projects, Inc., including "Roseville Yesterday and Today" (1975); "Profiles Out of the Past", a biographical history (1983); and "Milestones and Memories" (2002). All sales from the publications were donated to the Roseville Art Center for their cultural enrichment programs. In 2009, an updated edition of "Milestones and Memories" was published by the City of Roseville as part of its year-long celebration as an incorporated city.
In 1982, Duke served on the organizational committee of the Roseville Historical Society which officially incorporated in 1983. He served as Society Historian from that date until his death. During this period, he continued writing numerous books and booklets for the Society about Roseville and other Placer and El Dorado County communities as well as numerous articles for the Historical Society, the Roseville High School Alumni Association newsletters, the Roseville Press Tribune and various other area newspapers and magazines.
Duke was also active in the R.O.S.E. (Reaching Out Sharing Experiences), a collaborative undertaking between Roseville High School students and the senior community as well as the Dry Creek Conservancy (D.C.C.), an environmentalist organization dedicated to protecting, preserving and restoring the 101 square mile Dry Creek Watershed extending from Newcastle all the way to the confluence of the American and Sacramento rivers at the capital city's Discovery Park. Because of his efforts to preserve and enhance the history and continued development of his community, a City park was named for Duke in November, 2004.
He is survived by his sister-in-law Kathryn F. Davis of Lake of the Pines, Calif., and his long-time friend Eleanor Owens of Roseville, Calif.
At his request, no funeral or memorial service will be held. Donations in memory of Duke Davis may be made to the Roseville Historical Society at www.rosevillehistorical.org.

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Published in Gold Country Media Newspapers on Oct. 17, 2014.