Joseph Davis says Rutgers "saved him." He is returning the favor by giving to law scholarships through a planned gift.

For Joseph “Jo Jo” Haynes Davis, the sixth time was the charm. He applied for admission to the Rutgers Law School in Camden each year from 1985 through 1991 and finally was accepted at the age of 32. Taking classes part time and working full time, he earned his law degree in 1996. 

Davis celebrating graduation in 1996
Davis celebrating graduation in 1996.

Davis’s tenacity began with his parents, staunch role models for achievement and breaking racial barriers. His father, Dr. Miles Davis Jr., was one of the country’s first Black dental surgeons and a hog farmer in southwest Illinois. His mother Josephine was one of the first Black women to be an assistant principal in the 1950s. 

And then there’s his half-brother, jazz legend Miles Davis. 

Though Joseph was 33 years younger than the jazz icon, they shared a common musical bond—Miles as a performer and composer, Joseph as a broadcaster. While Joseph tried his hand at violin, trumpet, and piano, he didn’t like practicing, so he made his impact on music by knowing it and playing records on the air.

After more than 30 years in the broadcast industry as a DJ and journalist, he opened his own law practice 2001 in Orlando, where he is running for the Orange County Supervisor of Elections. Combining his law and broadcast expertise, he also has served as a legal, political, and social policy analyst for news franchises such as CNN and MSNBC. 

In gratitude for his legal career success, Davis has included the Rutgers Law School in his estate plans to provide support for law scholarships. “Rutgers Law in Camden gave me an opportunity that no one else gave me,” he says. “Everybody who knows me knows that not only am I loyal, they know about my loyalty to Rutgers.” 

Here, Davis tells his story of his determination to get into law school, his relationship with his brother, and advice for his generation.

Accepted after Six Years of Applying

I was the last guy admitted on the last day after six years. That's taking the LSAT twice a year for six years. 

Joseph Davis CLAW'96 is a proud Rutgers alumnus

I called the law school admissions director, Jim Muller, from the lunchroom at work. He answers the phone and says, “Joseph, welcome to the family.” I never will forget that. From that day on, nobody will ever find a more dedicated, committed, will-defend-on-all-areas Rutgers Law School alumnus. The Rutgers experience made me what I am today. And I can tell you, respectfully, I've tried to do my best to uphold the standards of Rutgers.

I get emotional. Greg Schiano, the football coach—you know how he says, “We’re out here chopping wood”? I say that. People think I invented that. They say, “Joe, what's going on?” I say, “I'm out here chopping wood because I work for myself.”

That's the thing about Rutgers. They gave me the opportunity. They believed in me. Rutgers saved me. The day I graduated, when I walked across the stage to get my diploma, my man Dean Rayman Solomon gives me the soul grip  and whispers in my ear, “May your ratings always be great and high.”

What’s It Like Being Miles Davis’s Brother?

After my father passed, I must've been four or five, we were down at Miles’s mother’s house in East St. Louis, and he took us for a ride. He liked his cars. I recall riding fast across the Eads Bridge going to St. Louis. 

After that, my mother and I were in New York City, and we went over his house. During my adolescence, I would try to see some of his concerts. During his hiatus, when he wasn’t playing, I was in college. We would talk about just sports and cooking. We really wouldn't talk about music. 

He knew I was working in public broadcasting, so he knew I was playing his records for a living. In the 1980s, I was there at the Avery Fisher concert during his comeback and took some pictures. I would see him either where he lived or at concerts. I was at his last birthday party at Tavern on the Green—it was in Jet Magazine, June 1991. He was aware I had been admitted to Rutgers Law School and I heard he was pretty happy and proud about that. 

Life Experience Matters

My message is for mature adults, and that is, it's never too late. 

People who come out of undergrad and go straight to law school, that's all they know. And that's okay, that's their life story. But that hasn't been my life story. I was more mature when I went to law school.

I've been out in the community. I've been a group home director for 15 abused and neglected Black boys in the Philadelphia area. I've been a substitute teacher in urban areas. I've worked at a convenience store. Those experiences are important when you practice law because you have a better chance to understand different types of people and situations.

If you're 75 and want to go to law school, go and matriculate. If you get your law degree in four years, as long as you have your cognition and health, you can contribute. And if nobody wants to hire you, do it yourself and develop your own business. 

It's never too late. It just isn't. 


WE ARE YOU is an ongoing series of stories about the people who embody Rutgers University’s unwavering commitment to academic excellence, building community, and the common good.

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