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R. Clayton "Clay" Davis
The Wire Clay Davis.jpg
First appearance "One Arrest" (episode 1.07)
Last appearance "Late Editions" (episode 5.09)
Created by David Simon
Portrayed by Isiah Whitlock, Jr.
Gender Male
Occupation Maryland State Senator

Senator R. Clayton "Clay" Davis is a fictional character on the HBO drama The Wire, played by actor Isiah Whitlock, Jr. Davis is a corrupt Maryland State Senator with a reputation for pocketing bribes. Davis however remains protected throughout the series by other ranking politicians and Police Commissioner Ervin Burrell.

Davis is known for his manner of cursing, used often when confronted with bad news, comically elongating the word "shit" as "sheeeeee-it."[1]




Season 1

When Lieutenant Daniels' detail discovered $20,000 of Avon Barksdale's money in the car of Davis' driver, they tried to expand the investigation to include Davis in the wiretaps. Deputy Commissioner Burrell called Daniels into a closed-door meeting with the Senator, but he was unwilling to drop the case. Burrell nonetheless soon pulled the plug on the investigation, and Clay Davis' involvement went uninvestigated. It was mentioned however that Davis had a file under federal investigation that was being built for over two years suspecting him of accepting illegal liquid assets.

Season 2

Davis attended a Democratic fundraiser thrown by stevedore union leader Frank Sobotka, accepting contributions in return for assurances that he would vote to construct the granary pier that Sobotka believed necessary to revitalize the union. After the newspapers subsequently revealed the criminal activities of the union, Frank's lobbyist advised him that none of the politicians would follow through. Senator Davis was soon seen with a shovel at a groundbreaking ceremony for dockside condominiums where the granary was supposed to go.

Season 3

Senator Davis had been acting as a consultant for Stringer Bell for some time, taking bribes from the Barksdale organization while claiming to influence political currents and win state government contracts for the drug empire's legitimate business front, B&B. When Bell read in the paper that block grants were given to several city developers but not B&B, he became suspicious. His lawyer Maurice Levy concluded, with amusement, that Davis had "rain made" Bell; Davis had played off Stringer's inexperience in legitimate business and had simply been taking the money and doing nothing for it. Stringer, furious, told Slim Charles that he wanted him to assassinate the Senator, but Avon warned him that assassinating a public figure would bring too much unwanted attention from federal and city police.

Season 4

Davis acted as Mayor Royce's deputy campaign chairman, and a key fundraiser in his re-election campaign. When Detective Sydnor served a subpoena for his financial records, as part of the major crimes unit's ongoing investigation into the Barksdale organization's finances, Davis was outraged. In retaliation, Davis went to Mayor Royce threatening to cut off the campaign's funding unless the Mayor's office interfered with the subpoenas.[2]

The day before the mayoral primary, Davis approached candidate Tommy Carcetti with an offer to hold off on bringing out the vote for Royce in exchange for a $20,000 payment. On Election Day, Davis campaigned for the mayor as if the deal had not taken place. After Carcetti upset Royce, Davis explained that Royce gave more money, and pointed out that he could easily have fleeced Carcetti for even more.

Davis stayed close to Commissioner Burrell, whom Carcetti hoped to fire. Davis struck a deal with the City Council President Nerese Campbell to offer a $25,000 jump in salary to a replacement commissioner, attempting to appear to Carcetti as an ally while believing the amount insufficient to attract any serious candidate. Davis was especially motivated to help Burrell when he learned that the most likely replacement was Cedric Daniels, whom he regarded as too uncontrollable. Davis opposed Daniels becoming commissioner based on his attitude during the stop of his driver, Damien Price, and realized that Daniels could very well allow investigations into Davis' money laundering allegations to continue. He persuaded Campbell and Burrell that Daniels was more interested in serving Mayor Carcetti and was unwilling to be of use to the city's African American community. To keep Daniels from moving up, Davis agreed with Burrell's plans to present information regarding illegal activities from Daniels' past.[3]

Season 5

Davis becomes a target of prosecution for Baltimore City State's Attorney Rupert Bond following the major crimes unit investigation. Detectives Lester Freamon and Leandor Sydnor are assigned to the State's Attorney's unit to lead the investigation at Bond's behest following the rest of the unit's reassignment.[4][5]

Davis approaches Burrell and demands his support against the investigation. Burrell explains that he could not intervene with Carcetti and the new State’s Attorney. Davis reminds Burrell that he helped to negotiate a pay raise on Burrell's behalf: enough to help Burrell purchase a new patio but not enough to attract a Pittsburgh Deputy Commissioner who was looking to take his post. Burrell explains that he would have to go around Daniels to interfere in the case and that Daniels is loyal to the Mayor; he also reminds Davis that interfering in the investigation would be a criminal act. Davis refuses to accept that Burrell would not return his previous support and accuses Burrell of believing him to be finished in Maryland politics.[6][7]

Assistant State's Attorney Rhonda Pearlman begins a series of grand jury depositions to prepare evidence to prosecute Davis, with one of the key witnesses being Davis' driver, Damien Lavelle "Day Day" Price. Learning that Mayor Carcetti has planned to replace Burrell, Davis offers to use his connections to smooth the transitions in exchange for help with the case. Carcetti refuses.[8][9]

Having uncovered evidence that Davis lied on a mortgage application, Freamon and Sydnor suggest taking the case to federal law enforcement. Yet Bond elects to ignore the evidence; he hopes to gain recognition by prosecuting Davis himself. Called to testify, Davis invokes his Fifth Amendment rights to avoid incriminating himself. Davis confronts a press opportunity staged by Bond on the courthouse steps, turning on the charm and denying any wrongdoing.[10] When called to the stand in his own defense, Davis gives a rousing speech defending his public role, is acquitted, and beams before the assembled cameras and reporters afterward while Bond and Pearlman look on, unable to believe what they have just witnessed.

With Bond's case concluded but the mortgage fraud uncharged, Freamon approaches Davis with the incriminating mortgage in a personal setting. Not knowing that Freamon has been unable to bring these charges, Davis gives up information about back-room deals involving the city's political elite. In a second conversation, Davis is last seen giving Lester additional information as well as boastingly mentioning a drug dealer named "Bell" whom he had conned.



Creator David Simon has said that Clay Davis is based on three different politicians in the Maryland State Senate, and that his affectionate use of the word "partner" is based on one of them, saying that everybody in Baltimore knows who this is.[citation needed]

It is possible that one of the individuals Simon had in mind is former Maryland state senator Larry Young.[11]


The character is well known for his elongation of the word "shit", making it sound like "sheee-it". His use of the word has origins in Whitlock's uncle, from whom he picked up the habit of saying it in real life. It was featured in the 2002 film 25th Hour after Spike Lee encouraged him to use it in the film. When Whitlock received his first script for The Wire it was already written into the part.[12]


  1. ^ Plotz, David (September 21, 2007). "Oh, How We've Missed You!". Slate magazine. Retrieved 2007-09-23. 
  2. ^ "Number 1 reason to watch HBO The Wire - Sen. Clay Davis!". You Tube. 2004. Retrieved 2006-09-13. 
  3. ^ "Character profile - R. Clayton "Clay" Davis". HBO. 2004. Retrieved 2006-09-13. 
  4. ^ "More with Less". Joe Chappelle, Writ. David Simon (story and teleplay), Ed Burns (story). The Wire. HBO. 2008-01-06. No. 1, season 5.
  5. ^ "The Wire episode guide - episode 51 More with Less". HBO. 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  6. ^ "Unconfirmed Reports". Ernest Dickerson, Writ. William F. Zorzi (story and teleplay), David Simon (story). The Wire. HBO. 2008-01-13. No. 2, season 5.
  7. ^ "The Wire episode guide - episode 52 Uncomfirmed Reports". HBO. 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  8. ^ "Not for Attribution". Scott and Joy Kecken, Writ. Chris Collins (story and teleplay), David Simon (story). The Wire. HBO. 2008-01-20. No. 3, season 5.
  9. ^ "The Wire episode guide - episode 53 Not for Attribution". HBO. 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-22. 
  10. ^ "Transitions". Dan Attias, Writ. Ed Burns (story and teleplay), David Simon (story). The Wire. HBO. 2008-01-27. No. 4, season 5.
  11. ^ "Hot off 'The Wire'" discussion at
  12. ^


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