As a young, recalcitrant investigative journalist for a community paper in Laredo, Texas in the 1960s, Julie Davey received a tip that a woman was illegally selling babies for adoption.
She found and probed the woman for information in broken Spanish.
“She said to me at one point, ‘Do you have any children?’ ” Davey said. “I said ‘No.’ She said, ‘Would you want one?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. How does that happen?’ She said, '$10,000.’ ”
Davey found out during the conversation that a local government worker, a man at the Vital Statistics Bureau, was providing the woman with birth forms.
After Davey broke the story, a court of inquiry was called. Davey was ordered to give up her source but held steady despite the threat of being thrown in jail for contempt of court.
The Vital Statistics man ended up going to prison, and the woman ended up back in Mexico.
Davey, now a longtime Laguna Niguel resident, spent her journalism career exposing similar government and corporate corruption at community papers in Texas.
Working under editors like Lloyd Hackler, who later became assistant press secretary to President Lyndon Johnson, her work often made a local impact.
When she broke a story that runaway teenage girls were being illegally held in adult jails, a juvenile detention center was established.
“When I wrote that story up they weren’t very happy with me,” Davey said, laughing.
Years after her journalism career, Davey settled in Laguna Niguel with her husband Robert, a former professor of aerospace engineering at Cal Poly Pomona. Starting in 1986, Davey taught and headed the journalism department at Fullerton College for 18 years while writing several books. She also has sat on the board of Pacific Symphony for years.
Many of Davey’s books were based off of her experiences, journalistic and otherwise.
Her 1991 novel “La Caridad” details when a young female reporter uncovers an international conspiracy tied to oil money. Davey said it was influenced by an incident where she discovered a wealthy American woman was being held captive in Mexico.
The 2012 psychological thriller, “Cry Wolf,” is based on when she met a couple who was living with a dozen wolves in the mountains of Colorado. The wolves lived indoors like any common pet.
“You had to cross a stream and a tire-tracked road in a jeep,” Davey said. “They had 12 wolves living in the house with them. They can’t be housebroken. The cabin reeked. The pack leader was guarding the room where the wolves sleep.”
That book is currently in the process of being made into a movie.
In 2001, after wrestling with breast cancer twice, Davey decided to teach writing to people suffering with debilitating diseases at hospitals. Eventually she taught at places of worship and at Camp Pendleton.
The classes, called “Writing for Wellness,” served as cathartic therapy for the sick and anguished. In 2007, Davey published a nonfiction book about the process and experiences of the classes called “Writing for Wellness: A Prescription for Healing.”
For many students, writing became an important tool in coming to terms with the cruelties life had dealt them.
“This one Marine jumped up to read what he wrote,” Davey described of her student at Camp Pendleton. “He stood up and said, ‘I see tear drops all around me.’ He said he refused to be engulfed by them. He was the guy who had to take the name tags off of all the dead bodies. He said, ‘Every day, I see all those people. Now they are with me, but I am moving forward.’ ”
Davey is retired from teaching. Her journalism days are far behind her.
Like many older journalists, she keeps bundles of her clips.
The aging pages, yellowed and cracked, tell of the plight of migrant workers, the shadowed dealings of oil men, the corruption of the very rich and the manipulation of the very poor.
An archive of a life’s work.
Stories that do not yellow and crack.