Dr. Joseph Davis, 88, died on March 19, 2013. He was a giant in the field of forensic pathology. In 1956, Dr. Davis and Dr. Stanley Durlacher opened the first Medical Examiner’s office in Metro-Dade County. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Davis became the Chief Medical Examiner, a post which he held from 1957 to 1996 and again in 2000-2001.
Dr. Davis is credited with pioneering modern death investigation, strongly influencing public safety legislation, and training hundreds of medical examiners in the science worldwide. Under Dr. Davis’ guidance, the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department crafted their lauded Police MedicoLegal Investigation of Death Course. The 40 hour seminar, a.k.a. Homicide School, is attended by homicide investigators, prosecutors, and medical examiners from all over the globe.
I was fortunate to have attended Police MedicoLegal Investigation of Death in 2003. Current Miami-Dade Chief Medical Examiner Bruce Hyma, Davis’ protege, and his staff gave nothing but high praise for Dr. Davis’ breadth of knowledge and his ability to impart it. Police MedicoLegal Investigation of Death is a course frequently seen on medical examiners’ résumés.
Dr. Davis, who is said to have personally performed over 10,000 autopsies in his career, played investigative roles in reviews of the deaths of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Elvis Presley. During the 1980’s drug violence in Dade County, Davis’ office investigated over 600 homicides per year. His office also handled the grim crashes of Eastern Airlines Flight 401, and later, ValuJet Flight 592 in the Everglades.
From humble beginnings in a formal funeral home in 1956, the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner Department now has an extensive campus aptly named the Dr. Joseph H. Davis Center for Forensic Pathology.
Dr. Davis passed away peacefully in Tallahassee, Florida.