Neil O. Davis ’35 was a longtime newspaper editor in Auburn, known for his editorials calling for acceptance of desegregation, increased support for public education and policies that helped the poor. During the civil rights era of the 1950s and 60s, Davis stood out in Alabama for his consistent stands during a time when emotions were often high, demagoguery flourished and violence sometimes resulted. His newspapers won numerous state and national awards, including three on the national level for best editorials. He came to Auburn from his native Hartford in 1931 and was editor of the student newspaper, the Auburn Plainsman, his senior year. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in science and literature and following graduation, founded the Lee County Bulletin (later the Auburn Bulletin) in 1937 at the age of 22. In 1941, he became the first weekly newspaperman to receive a Nieman fellowship at Harvard University. Davis remained editor and publisher of the Bulletin until he sold the paper in 1975. He also owned the Tuskegee News from 1964-75 and was its editor and publisher.
In the late 1970s, Davis was an adjunct professor of journalism at AU. He was a founding member of the local Presbyterian Community Ministry, which supports low-income housing and a member of President Lyndon Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Rural Poverty. His honors include selection to the Alabama Newspaper Hall of Honor and the University of Alabama Communication Hall of Fame. Davis remained an Auburn resident until his death in 2000. He was a life member of the Auburn Alumni Association.