William S. "Bill" Davila, son and only child of Salvadore Davila and Amparo "Polly" Lopez, was born 25 April 1931 in Los Angeles County, California. He began his career in the supermarket industry with an after-school job sweeping floors in the produce department, for $1.10 per hour, at Vons Grocery Company in 1948 at age 17. His early goal was to become a Produce Manager, but he worked his way up to President and C.E.O. of Vons in 1984, when he became the first executive of Mexican-American descent to lead a major supermarket chain in America.
Bill Davila served his country in the States Air Force from 1951 to 1954, and after his military service, returned to Vons where he achieved his goal of becoming a Produce Manager. During his service in the Air Force, Bill Davila married in Los Angeles, California on 6 January 1952 to Dorothy Margaret Kraft, mother of their three daughters and two sons together, and his wife and love of more than 62 years.
In 1959, Davila was promoted into Vons corporate office, working in the company's Advertising Department, which he eventually headed up before being promoted into higher executive positions. His background in advertising likely played a role in his becoming Vons' spokesperson in radio and television commercials, which he hosted in both English and Spanish. These advertisements made Davila famous far beyond grocery industry circles and increased his visibility as one of the leading advocates of marketing to consumers of latino descent. Davila pushed initiatives during his tenure to boost the company's standing among latino consumers.
In one of those initiatives, in the late 1980's, Vons opened Tianguis [an Aztec word meaning marketplace], one of the first supermarkets to catering primarily to Hispanic consumers. At a Mexican American Grocers Assn. convention in 1986, he grew frustrated with food companies that still seemed reluctant to expand into neighborhoods with large Latino populations.
Davila was also well received as the company's television spokesman, starring in commercials in both English and Spanish during his tenure. Davila was known throughout his career for "giving back" to the industry and also to many charitable causes, serving as President of the Western Association of Food Chains until 1991, and serving two terms as President of the "Food Industries Circle", a food industry foundation that has raised millions of dollars for cancer research and treatment at the City of Hope.
For his charitable work and giving back to the community, Davila received several accolades and awards, including "The Hispanic Excellence Award" from Northern Trust of California in September, 1991, for "promoting positive images of Latinos in California and inspire Latino youth to achieve personal and professional excellence".
When Davila retired from Vons in April, 1992, he remained President Emeritus and spokesman for the chain, which was acquired in April 1997 by Safeway, Inc.. Davila was honored by the University of Southern CaliforniaMarshall School of Business as the Food Industry Executive of the Year in 1994. After his retirement in 1995, Davila became a member of the National Advisory Board of Trustees of the Citizens' Scholarship Foundation of America, a national, nonprofit educational support and student aid service organization, and also established an educational foundation, the "William S. Davila Scholarship Fund", that gives scholarships to Latino students who intend to work in the grocery industry. Bill Davila passed on February 14, 2014 [Valentine's Day], and is survived by his wife, Dorothy; daughters Lisa Franklin, Diane Jones and Deborah McGuire; sons David and Bill, Jr.; and 12 grandchildren. He was known as a gracious and caring man by the many people that knew him.