A name associated with no less than four(-ish) notable personalities, ranging from cartooning to journalism.
Jim Davis--The Garfield Creator
This Jim Davis (born James Robert Davis), by and far the most famous Jim Davis to date, was born on July 28, 1945, in Marion, Indiana. Although this was the same town that gave rise to James Dean, Davis' upbringing on the family farm with his brother, parents, and--yes--25 stray cats lent him less readily to maturing into a rebel without a cause. Davis likely would have followed in his father's farming footsteps were it not for severe asthma that left him unable to not only work outside for hours on end, but even to do simple chores. As such, young Jim turned to drawing pictures, and eventually to captioning them. His asthma soon diminished, but his avocation didn't, and the tall, well-built Davis continued to cartoon as he became a lettered football player at Fairmount High School, which he graduated from in 1962.
Davis went on to attend Ball State University, where he became an Art and Business major before dropping out with one of the lowest GPAs in the history of the institution. (He later shared this distinction with fellow humorist David Letterman.) He worked for an advertising agency, then as an assistant to Tom Ryan, creator of the 'Tumbleweeds' comic strip. Finally, he struck out on his own, writing 'Gnorm Gnat' for Indiana's Pendleton Times. When Davis once submitted it to a national syndicate, they returned it with the message, "It's funny. But bugs? Who can relate to a bug?" Davis kept this in mind after he ended the Gnorm Gnat series after five years by crushing the protagonist with a giant foot, and looked for new material to write on.
At the time, there was many a strip featuring a dog, but virtually none starring cats. Davis took the opportunity and created the now famous-and-infamous orange tabby, Garfield. Like many other cartoonists, Jim drew very heavily from his background to create his most famous work: a young man leaves his rural childhood (with a brother and a mother that look suspiciously like Davis' relatives) behind to work as a cartoonist, accompanied by a cat with the same name as Davis' grandfather. Davis' life must not have appeared too humorous at first, for the Chicago Sun-Times cancelled the strip a few months after its June 19, 1978 debut. Though 40 other newspapers were carrying it at the time, the decision made its readers so angry that thousands sent in letters calling for reinstatement. The Sun-Times relented, and Garfield started its upward climb towards eventually becoming, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, 'the most widely syndicated comic strip in the world'.
Davis's life differed from his art in two large aspects, though. Unlike Jon Arbuckle's relentless bachelorhood, Jim became married to Carolyn, who was allergic to cats (the second difference--they did own a dog, however, named Molly). The two split for unknown reasons, and on July 16, 2000, Davis married Jill, whom he lives with in Muncie, Indiana to this day. They have three children: James, Ashley, and Christopher. In his spare time, Davis enjoys golf, chess, and protecting the environment; he was awarded the Arbor Day Foundation's Good Steward Award in 1990 for his efforts in reforesting the state of Indiana.
Jim's awards, accrued over his successful yet ongoing career, include winning the Best Humor Strip award from the National Cartoonist Society in 1981 and 1985, 1990's Reuben Award (for 'overall excellence in cartooning'), four Emmy Awards, and a 1998 introduction into the Licensing Hall of Fame. To that end, Davis is also the president of Paws, Inc., a company devoted to Garfield's licensing ventures. If you have ever seen a plush Garfield toy stuck in the window of a car, then you are familiar with just how deserving Davis is of the latter award. Davis is also the author of myriad Garfield books and was a writer and executive producer for the animated 'Garfield and Friends' television series.
This Jim Davis probably has had less of an international impact, but would likely be better known to the citizens of the 11th Congressional District of Florida, whom he represents in the United States House of Representatives. A Tampa native, Davis graduated from Jesuit High School, then went on to become a member of Washington & Lee University's Class of 1979 and attained his law degree from the University of Florida. Returning to Tampa to practice law in 1982, Davis earned a spot in the Florida House of Representatives in 1988. As a Democrat, he became Majority Leader during his final term before deciding to run for Congress in 1996. He won.
After being elected class president by the incoming Democratic representatives (don't laugh, he actually had some minor powers), Davis has spoken in favor of campaign finance reform, lowering the national debt, and keeping Social Security and Medicare solvent. In 2001, Jim joined the New Democrat Coalition, a group of 75 loosely-organized moderate Democrats with a focus on promoting bipartisan solutions. He was appointed to the House Energy and Commerce Committee in 2003. Davis recently publicly supported John Kerry's 2004 presidential nomination at a Florida rally. He is married to Peggy Bessent Davis and has two children, Peter and William.
Jim Davis--The 'Dallas' Actor
This Jim Davis was born Marlin Davis on August 26, 1909, in Edgerton, Missouri. After coming to Hollywood in 1940 as a traveling salesman, Davis mired in mediocrity for many a film before starring aside the (unrelated) Bette Davis in 1948's Winter Meeting. He abandoned romantic roles afterwards and went on to play hero and villain parts in many 1950s Western staples, including 1954's "Stories of the Century" and "The Big Sky" in 1952, where he was featured opposite Kirk Douglas.
Yet the tall, rangy figure would have fallen into the sands of ignorance were it not for a new and upcoming show that premiered in 1978: "Dallas". Jim Davis played the role of John 'Jock' Ewing, Sr, the father of the infamous 'J.R.', for the show's first several seasons. Sadly, he died on April 26, 1981 after surgery to treat a malignant form of brain cancer. He was survived by his wife, Blanche, who he had married in 1945: his only daughter, Tara Diane, had been killed in a car accident some 10 years earlier. His unexpected death caused a dilemma for the script writers, who were unable to dispose of him until halfway through the next season; they ended up writing him to have been drilling oil in South America for the preceding episodes, and having died in a plane crash later.
Jim Davis--The Journalist
This Jim Davis--well, actually, there's more than one of these. A Jim Davis is a frequent staff writer for the Fresno Bee, a featured columnist for Illinois' Naperville Daily Herald, and possibly a contributor for the Associated Press as well. We can assume these are not the same person. As far as can be known, neither Jim Davis nor Jim Davis nor Jim Davis has held an interview with Jim Davis, discussed Jim Davis' activities in Washington, D.C., or written Jim Davis' obituary. If any of this proves to be false, please let me know.
Jim Davis is also: the women's basketball coach at Clemson University, the Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, the Athletics Director of Peoria Centennial High, a 1950s MLB pitcher with a 24-26 career record, the police chief of Sebastian, Florida, a technophile leftist author and article writer, and more college professors than you can shake a stick at.
...In fact, if you're Jim Davis and think you deserve mention here, drop me a line.
Thanks to czeano for correcting my usage of 'who' and 'whom', which I could never really get quite right (especially at 4:35 in the morning).