Doris Meyer Morell, 83; Mother of Gray Davis Helped in His Campaigns

Times Staff Writer

Doris Meyer Morell, the mother of former Gov. Gray Davis who repeatedly returned to California to campaign for her son, has died. She was 83.

Morell died Sunday at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center in Florida after a long battle with lung cancer, Davis said.

“My mom encouraged us to think big, work hard and always care for the less fortunate,” Davis told The Times.

In his 2001 State of the State address, Davis paid tribute “to the other woman in my life, my mother, Doris Morell. The woman who raised me to implement her vision.”


She was born June 2, 1923, in Buffalo, N.Y., the youngest of three daughters of George and Anne Meyer. Her father owned a local brewery.

While attending Marymount College in Tarrytown, N.Y., she married Joseph G. Davis and had five children. The eldest was Joseph Graham Davis Jr., the future governor.

“I didn’t want a Big Joe and a Little Joe,” Morell told The Times in 2002, so she nicknamed her first-born as an infant. “Out of Graham, I got Gray.”

A stay-at-home mother, Morrell emphasized education and discipline.


“If I got all A’s and one B, my allowance was a dollar,” Davis once recalled. “If I got all Bs and one C, my allowance was 50 cents.” Anything less stood to earn nothing.

Of her approach to parenting, Morell told The Times in 1998: “I wasn’t running a popularity contest. They did what they were supposed to do.”

In the mid-1950s, the family moved from Greenwich, Conn., to Los Angeles for her husband’s job as an advertising executive. They lived in the Santa Monica Mountains near where the Getty Center now stands.

An avid amateur golfer, Morell taught her son the game, and he made the Stanford University golf team. Later, he found inspiration in her ability to win tournaments.


“I used her golfing prowess as motivation in my gubernatorial debates,” Davis recalled. “My mom always came through in the clutch.”

After her marriage broke up in 1963, Morell moved to Rye, N.Y., where her sister lived.

About three years later, she married Armand M. Morell and worked in his furniture showroom in New York and, after they moved to Palm Beach County, another in Florida

She returned west to campaign with Davis during his two runs for governor, in 1998 and 2002, and during the 2003 recall election, which he lost to Arnold Schwarzenegger.


“She wasn’t a politician by nature,” Davis said. “She was a good person by nature.”

In addition to her husband and son, Morell is survived by two other sons, William R. Davis and Barry M. Davis; two daughters, Doris Davis Ross and Anne Davis Pinkham; 12 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.