Sir David was born in Sydney in 1924. He and his brothers were brought up by his mother in Takapuna, Auckland. Sir David went to Auckland's Dilworth School, which catered particularly for boys from broken homes. It was a start that shaped his approach to life and instilled a compassion for others.
He was still young at the outbreak of the Second World War. He joined the army in 1941 and rose to the rank of sergeant before transferring to the naval volunteer reserve as a sub-lieutenant.
After the war, Sir David gained a law degree at Auckland University in 1948 before setting up in private practice. He served as a Supreme Court judge (1969-1980), chaired the Royal Commission on the Courts (1977-78) and was appointed Governor-General in 1980.
Sir David received two knighthoods, the Grand Cross and Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George from the Queen in 1980.
Sir David was heavily involved in sports administration, serving as New Zealand Olympic Committee president for 11 years. He was president of the Olympic and Commonwealth Games Association in 1989 and was president of the Sports Foundation twice. Sir David's work was recognised with the award of the Olympic Order. He was also patron of the New Zealand Rugby Football Union, the New Zealand Boxing Association, and the New Zealand Squash Rackets Association. He was a keen golfer, tennis player and fisherman.
Sir David was involved in the arts, serving as patron of the New Zealand Youth Choir in 1990 and chairing the Festival of the Arts from 1986-90. He was also involved in helping the disadvantaged.
Sir David died in February 2001.