A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., John Davis served in the U.S. Army for 3½ years during World War II. For most of John Davis' long lifting career, which spanned 19 years, he represented the York Barbell Club. Davis worked as an officer in the New York Department of Corrections.
John Davis first gained prominence by winning the world light heavyweight crown as a 17-year-old school boy in 1938 at Vienna, Austria. In all, Davis triumphed eight times in world championships, including the Olympic Games of 1948 and 1952. Weightlifting history show also that John Davis won gold medals in the U.S. Senior Nationals 12 times, a record no other heavyweight has even come close to equaling.
At his peak, Davis held all the world records in his class. Of his many thrilling performances, perhaps his clean and jerk of 402 pounds in the 1951 Senior Nationals held in Los Angeles, California will be best remembered because it marked the first time more than 400 pounds was lifted in this fashion on a standard Olympic Barbell.