UPDATE 2-California governor denies parole for Manson Family member

(Adds details throughout)

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES, March 1 (Reuters) - California Governor Jerry Brown denied parole on Friday for a member of the Manson Family cult who was sentenced to life in prison for two murders in the 1970s, saying that he remained a danger to the public.

In rejecting parole for Bruce Davis, who is now 70, Brown reversed the decision of a state parole board that had found him eligible for release after his 27th parole hearing last October.

"As our Supreme Court has acknowledged, in rare circumstances, a murder is so heinous that it provides evidence of current dangerousness by itself," the governor wrote in his six-page decision. "This is such a case."

Brown commended Davis for his efforts to improve himself behind bars, including earning degrees in religion and philosophy, leading counseling groups and teaching Bible classes.

But the governor said Davis continued to minimize the extent of his involvement and leadership in the Manson Family, a collection of runaways and outcasts brought together by ex-convict Charles Manson whose spree of killings horrified the nation in the 1960s.

Davis has been serving a life sentence in a California state prison since his 1972 conviction for the murders of music teacher Gary Hinman and stunt man Donald "Shorty" Shea in 1969. He was arrested in 1970 after nearly a year on the run.

He was previously granted parole in 2010 but remained incarcerated after that decision was reversed by then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In the summer of 1969, Manson became one of the 20th century's most infamous criminals when he directed his mostly young, female followers to murder seven people in what prosecutors said was part of a twisted plan to incite a race war between whites and blacks.

Among the victims was actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of filmmaker Roman Polanski, who was stabbed 16 times by members of the cult in the early morning hours of Aug. 9, 1969.

Four other people were also stabbed or shot to death at Tate's home that night by the Manson followers, who scrawled the word "Pig" in blood on the front door before leaving.

The following night, Manson's group stabbed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca to death, using their blood to write "Rise," "Death to Pigs" and "Healter Skelter" - a misspelled reference to the Beatles song "Helter Skelter" - on the walls and refrigerator door.

Davis did not take part in those murders.

Manson, who is now 78, is serving a life sentence for those seven slayings and the murder of Hinman, who was stabbed to death in July 1969. He has been repeatedly denied parole.

Steve Grogan, another Manson Family member, who was convicted of murdering Shea at Manson's direction, was released in the mid-1980s. (Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)