Emmett P. Davis

[ Age 87 ] The family practice physician founded the Man Alive methadone treatment center in the city in the 1960s.

October 21, 2007|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,Sun Reporter

Dr. Emmett Patterson "Pete" Davis, founder of a major methadone treatment program for heroin addicts in Baltimore, died of a cerebral hemorrhage Wednesday at his home in Chester, Va. He was 87.

A longtime resident of Baltimore County, Dr. Davis was a family doctor in Northeast Baltimore in 1966 when he began to notice a growing number of patients seeking help with their heroin addictions.

Baltimore and other cities at the time were experiencing a surge in drug abuse -- and with it, rising crime. Dr. Davis read an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association about an innovative program in New York City that used a synthetic heroin substitute called methadone, said his son, Emmett "Tom" Davis of Freeland.

Dr. Davis worked with a former heroin addict named Richard Lane to found the Man Alive treatment program in 1967. More than 40 years later, the methadone clinic still treats addicts at 2117 Maryland Ave.

"He was a firm believer in methadone," Mr. Davis said of his father. "It gave addicts the opportunity to function in a normal fashion. Not everybody succeeded there, but Man Alive helped many people."

Annamarie James, Dr. Davis' third wife and his medical office manager, recalled that the neighbors in Northeast Baltimore didn't like the clinic, so it had to move downtown.

"We were trying to cut down on crime, because if they were on methadone, that would cut their desire or craving -- and then they could get jobs or be creative or do what they should be doing instead of stealing," Ms. James said.

Born outside Pittsburgh, Dr. Davis was one of five children of a country doctor who made house calls. He attended Pennsylvania State University but left as a junior to enlist in the Army Air Corps in 1940.

During World War II, he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. At one point, he piloted a DC-3 that towed gliders carrying soldiers during the invasion of Sicily from North Africa.

After the war, he became a commercial pilot for Capital Airlines, which later became Eastern Airlines. He then returned to Penn State and, after graduating, earned his medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 1952.

In addition to his family medical practice and his treatment of drug addicts, Dr. Davis enjoyed flying a small Beechcraft single-engine airplane to Florida, the Bahamas, the Outer Banks of North Carolina and elsewhere.

"He loved flying -- flying, flying, flying," recalled another son, Dr. Jeff Davis of Red Lion, Pa. "He just liked to be free and to be able to escape gravity and just go like the birds do."

He also enjoyed playing the piano, listening to classical music, scuba diving, painting and gardening.

Dr. Davis married five times and divorced four times. He had three children with his second wife, Mary Jacqueline McNulty, with whom he lived for 11 years in Baltimore County. They divorced in 1957, and she died in 1987.

In 1985, he married Charlotte Moss, with whom he lived in Chester from his retirement in 1995 until his death.

No public services are planned. Dr. Davis donated his body to medical science.

In addition to his wife and sons, survivors include a daughter, Mary Jacqueline Davis Rucci of Abingdon.

tom.pelton@baltsun.com

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