Lester Gann Davis hailed from a South Cobb family that found honor in serving its country.
For 32 years, he was an FBI agent. Assignments took him to Illinois, Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia.
"He was highly regarded," said Charles Haynes, a retired FBI agent who worked with Mr. Davis in Atlanta. "He was a very capable agent who had a wonderful reputation and handled many cases of interest."
One of those cases was the 1968 kidnapping of Barbara Mackle, a Florida heiress and Emory University student. She was buried alive in a box, with a tube for air, in Gwinnett County.
Said Mr. Haynes: "We had just minutes to get the top off the box that she was buried in, and we had no tools... Some [agents] used coins and fingernails to get the screws off. We were successful in getting it open and getting her out."
On Saturday, Mr. Davis died from complications of Parkinson's disease at the Lenbrook retirement community in Atlanta. He was 94. A funeral will be held at noon Tuesday at Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta. Davis-Struempf Funeral Home and Crematory is in charge of arrangements.
In 1942, Mr. Davis trained as an FBI agent in Quantico, Va. His first assignment was in Alton, Ill., followed by stints in Birmingham and Gainesville.
In North Georgia, he helped the government pursue moonshiners and draft dodgers, and conducted employee background checks for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.
When assigned to Washington, D.C., he met weekly with FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to discuss mob activities in Chicago and the Midwest.
"His job was to prepare a report and present it on a weekly basis to Mr. Hoover," said Phil Davis, a son from Snellville. "He was just an FBI agent assigned a task. The agents were not as specialized as they are today."
While based in Louisiana in the 1950s, Mr. Davis made a name for himself apprehending bank robbers. Back then, bank robbers in the Southeast routinely made their way to New Orleans to enjoy their loot.
"Through his network, he'd get leads and capture people down there," his son said. "He was like a spider waiting for people to come to his web, and he had a high percentage of arrests of bank robbers in the South."
In 1969, Mr. Davis returned to Atlanta where he handled cases until his retirement in 1974. A respected coin collector, he served as chairman of national conventions and was appointed to a commission that ensures proper procedures are followed at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia.
For his wife, the late Mary Ellis Davis, he took photographs that she put to canvas. She died in 1996.
Mr. Davis had written an autobiography of his FBI days that he wanted to publish.
"He saw his job as an opportunity to make a useful contribution of service to his country," his son said. "There was a sense of honor and duty in being an FBI agent."
Additional survivors include another son, former DeKalb County Commissioner Kenneth Davis of Stone Mountain and two grandchildren.
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