Edward John (Big Dave) Davis, 79, a retired D.C. Department of Recreation director and championship-winning tennis coach who was an outstanding college athlete, died from septic shock Monday at the Washington Hospital Center.

A native Washingtonian, Mr. Davis graduated from Dunbar High School. He attended old Miner Teachers College here and Virginia Seminary and College in Lynchburg.

An honor student at both colleges, he was an all-star athlete at Virginia Seminary in the 1920s, where he earned letters in football, basketball, tennis and swimming, was named outstanding quarterback and kicker and all-forward, and served as captain of the school's championship basketball team. At Miner Teachers College, he coached winning basketball teams.

In 1929, he was honored by the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association and in the 1930s was one of the winners of an American Tennis Association's doubles match.

In 1978, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Washington Area Tennis Patrons Foundation for his contributions to the game of tennis here. His award was presented by Billie Jean King in ceremonies held at the Shoreham Hotel.

Mr. Davis worked as a D.C. recreation director and tennis coach for 30 years before retiring in 1965. In the 1930s, '40s, and '50, he was director of the Banneker Recreation Center, where he coached championship tennis teams and initiated innovative recreation programs.

Later, at Powell Recreation Center, he organized a championship international tennis team nicknamed the United Nations team. He was director of the Trinidad Recreation Center when he retired.

Mr. Davis was married for 26 years to Ellswer W. Davis, founder of the Friends of Sierra Leone Club here. She died in 1965.

Survivors include three daughters, Evangeline M. Clare of Jamaica, Jessye Olivia Hegeman of Los Angeles, and Ellswer D. Barham of Washington; a son, Edward W., of District Heights, and 10 grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Washington Tennis Association, P. O. Box 4416, Washington, D.C. 20017.