Representative Danny K. Davis: Champion for Community Health Centers

The son of a sharecropper, longtime U.S. Representative Danny K. Davis has always known a life of service.

Civil Rights and Public Health Activist

Davis was involved in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s and politics on the West Side of Chicago, which ultimately led him to the Community Health Center Movement. He served as the director of the Greater Lawndale Conservation Commission before leaving to serve as director of training for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Health Center. During this time, Davis recognized the possibilities the health center model offers in lifting the barriers of care for underserved communities.

From 1976 through 1981, Davis served as special assistant to the president of Mile Square Community Health Center in Chicago, Illinois. His experience and work with community stakeholders and officials quickly earned recognition and respect within the health care community.

 Becoming a Voice for Health Centers

Davis provided pivotal leadership in the growth and development of the nation’s health centers. He is credited for the formation of a national association – one that would unite health centers in their diversity and ensure their survival by becoming a collective voice. That association became NACHC. Davis was elected to serve as NACHC President from 1977 to 1978.

Davis was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996, bringing with him an understanding of the health center mission from inside the clinic walls and outside. He continues to be a supporter and advocate for the Federal Health Center Program by building support for its growth and expansion and ensuring protections for vulnerable populations. As a congressman, Davis promoted key health center issues, such as appropriation, Medicaid, cost-based reimbursement, FTCA, National Health Service Corps expansion, and a host of other health center priorities.

Davis has fought to ensure that health centers have adequate resources to meet the evolving community health needs. He was also instrumental in establishing that health centers were a core component in the Affordable Care Act of 2010, which paved the way for the historic expansion of health centers—opening the doors of a primary medical home for millions of Americans.

Davis once said about the development of Community Health Centers that they “did not fall out of a Cracker Jack box. It took a lot of thinking, planning, marching, and fighting from people who put their hearts and souls into the effort.”

“Community Health Centers did not fall out of a Cracker Jack box. It took a lot of thinking, planning, marching, and fighting from people who put their hearts and souls into the effort.”

Representative Danny K. Davis

Davis has never strayed from his commitment to bettering the lives of people suffering from poverty, sickness, and discrimination. And his contributions to the health center movement have not gone unnoticed. He continues to be at the forefront of conversations about the well-being and sustainability of health centers. His strong, passionate voice resounds through the halls of Congress calling on his fellow colleagues to invest in Community Health Centers to give all Americans access to affordable health care.

Ed. note: Black History Month gives us pause to reflect on the lives of the many who led the way in the Health Center Movement. During this month and beyond, we will proudly recognize African American pioneers in the Health Center Movement whose vision and enormous contributions helped lay the foundation of a community-based system of primary care to improve health and bring greater equity into the nation’s health system.

Read profiles of other Black pioneers:

Dr. Lula (L.C.) Dorsey

Dr. John W. Hatch


  1. Let’s continue to build upon our past in the perseverance for the basic needs of life, health care for all.

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