W. Curtis Carroll Davis, 80, author of biographies, critic

February 14, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

W. Curtis Carroll Davis, a Baltimore writer and critic with an interest in espionage stemming from World War II service as a military interrogator, died of pneumonia Feb. 1 at Keswick Multi-Care Center. He was 80 and lived in Guilford.

"He was a gentleman scholar, and in the field of literary history established himself," said James H. Bready, a retired Evening Sun editorial writer and author of The Sun's "Books and Authors" column.

Mr. Davis' books included three biographies: "Chronicler of the Cavaliers: A Life of the Virginia Novelist Dr. William A. Caruthers;" The King's Chevalier: A Biography of Lewis Littlepage;" and "That Ambitious Mr. Legare: The Life of James M. Legare of South Carolina."

He was a prolific contributor of articles and reviews to scholarly magazines and newspapers and frequently sent letters to the editor of The Sun -- taking particular joy in pointing out the occasional misspelling in its pages of Edgar Allan Poe's middle name.

"He led the academic life independent of a university, and he not only recognized standards but upheld them," Mr. Bready said yesterday, describing Mr. Davis as "meticulous, precise and well-spoken."

"He had a sharp mind and a strong interest in the past," Mr. Bready added.

Mr. Davis, who led a quiet and orderly life from his Overhill Road home, was born and raised in Guilford, the son of a physician.

He was a 1934 graduate of Boys' Latin School and earned his bachelor's degree in English literature from Yale University in 1938. He received a master's degree in English and comparative literature in 1939 from Columbia University and a doctorate in American and English literature from Duke University in 1947.

In 1942, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was assigned to air intelligence, with a specialty of interrogating German prisoners of war. He served in North Africa and Europe, and for six weeks was the only Allied air intelligence interrogator at Anzio, Italy. An Evening Sun article in 1950 told of some of the "several hundred Luftwaffe customers" of Mr. Davis, "many of whom he went to work on within hours after their capture." They TC included the head of Germany's own air interrogation system, and the 16-year-old pilot of the first one-man German submarine launched against Allied shipping at Anzio.

A major at 30, he was awarded the Bronze Star for the information he obtained from the crew of a German plane that crashed on the edge of St. Nazaire, France.

"His command of German derived from college and vacation residences in Germany," the Evening Sun article said. "A burly 6-footer with a college background of boxing, he had no trouble convincing prisoners of war that he meant business."

In April 1945, Mr. Davis was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services' counterespionage section and carried out missions in England and Italy. From 1947 to 1949, he was operations officer on the Italian desk of the Central Intelligence Agency.

He served in the Army Reserve until 1976, when he was discharged as a lieutenant colonel.

He was a member of numerous organizations, including the Society of the War of 1812, the Society of the Cincinnati, Sons of the American Revolution, Sons of Colonial Wars, the St. George's Society, Maryland Historical Society and Edgar Allan Poe Society, and the Cosmos Club in Washington.

He was particularly proud of being asked to join the Circumnavigators Club in 1979. Members are required to have ** traveled around the world in one continuous trip.

Mr. Davis fulfilled the unique requirement during World War II, when he traveled from Atlantic City, N.J., to California to the South Pacific, to Cairo, Egypt, north through Europe and the Mediterranean, and across the Atlantic to Baltimore.

He was married in 1969 to Gertrude "Margarete" Wenderoth Winger, who died in 1992. He is survived by a stepson, Everett Akam of Casper, Wyo.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. tomorrow in the Lady Chapel of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, 5300 N. Charles St., where he was a communicant.

Pub Date: 2/14/97

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