DAVIS, John William (1873-1955)

DAVIS, JOHN WILLIAM, (son of John James Davis), a Representative from West Virginia; born in Clarksburg, Harrison County, W.Va., April 13, 1873; attended various private schools; was graduated from the literary department of Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Va., in 1892; taught school; reentered the university and was graduated from its law department in 1895; was admitted to the bar the same year and commenced practice in Clarksburg, W.Va.; professor of law at Washington and Lee University in 1896 and 1897; resumed the practice of law in Clarksburg, W.Va., in 1897; member of the State house of delegates in 1899; delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1904; president of the West Virginia Bar Association in 1906; appointed a member of the West Virginia Commission on Uniform State Laws in 1909; elected as a Democrat to the Sixty-second and Sixty-third Congresses and served from March 4, 1911, to August 29, 1913, when he resigned; one of the managers appointed by the House of Representatives in 1912 to conduct the impeachment proceedings against Robert W. Archbald, judge of the United States Commerce Court; Solicitor General of the United States 1913-1918; appointed Ambassador to the Court of St. James and served from November 21, 1918, to March 31, 1921; member of the American delegation for conference with Germany on the treatment and exchange of prisoners of war, held in Berne, Switzerland, in September 1918; honorary bencher of the Middle Temple, London, England; unsuccessful Democratic candidate for President of the United States in 1924; delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1932; was a resident of Nassau County, N.Y., and practiced law in New York City until his death; died in Charleston, S.C., March 24, 1955; interment in Locust Valley Cemetery, Glen Cove, Long Island, N.Y.

Yale University Library
Manuscripts and Archives
Cambridge, MA
Papers: 1846-1959, 92.25 linear feet.
The papers consist of correspondence, speeches and writings, diaries, photographs, extensive material from the presidential campaign of 1924, and material relating to John W. Davis's law practice and public activities. Correspondence makes up two-thirds of the papers including early letters by Davis to his family and his first wife, and letters while ambassador to Great Britain (1918-1923). The largest part of the correspondence is for the period 1924-1955 and concerns Davis' civic and political activities. Papers relating to his law practice in New York, where he was counsel to J.P. Morgan and Co., and others are separately arranged. His service as Solicitor General of the United States (1913-1918) is documented only by printed matter with his marginalia. Also in the papers are research materials and drafts by William H. Harbaugh for his biography of Davis, published in 1973. A finding aid is available in the repository and online.


Columbia University
Oral History Archives
New York, NY
Oral History: 1954, 172 pages.
Reminiscences of John William Davis. The interview was conducted by Harlan B. Phillips. Topics covered include John Davis's early life and law practice in Clarksburg, West Virginia; Solicitor General of the United States; 1924 campaign for President; comments on the Supreme Court, President, Cabinet and Washington, D.C.; ambassador to Great Britain; exchange and treatment of prisoners in World War I; law practice.


Georgetown University Library
Washington, DC
Papers: In the Lloyd W. Bowers/John W. Davis Papers, 1909-1918, 6 feet.
Correspondence files of Solicitors General. Finding aid in repository.


Harrison County Historical Society
Clarksburg, WV
Papers: ca. 1924, approximately 5 letters.
Correspondence from John W. Davis to Melville Davisson Post regarding the 1924 campaign.


Harvard University
Houghton Library
Cambridge, MA
Papers: In the Boylston Adams Beal Letters from Various Correspondents, 1871-1940, 0.5 linear foot.
Other authors include John W. Davis. A finding aid is available in the repository.


Haverford College
Haverford, PA
Papers: In the Harrison Streeter Hires Letters, 1916-1955, approximately 150 items.
Correspondents include John William Davis.


Library of Congress
Manuscript Division
Washington, DC
Papers: In the Huntington Gilchrist Papers, ca. 1913-1973, approximately 15,000 items.
Correspondents include John W. Davis. A finding aid is available in the library.

Papers: In the Robert Lansing Papers, ca. 1831-1935, 17 linear feet.
Correspondents include John W. Davis. A finding aid is available in the library.

Papers: In the Riggs Family Papers, 1763-1945, approximately 100,000 items.
Correspondents include John W. Davis. A finding aid is available in the library.

Papers: In the Huston Thompson Papers, 1908-1965, approximately 1,500 items.
Correspondents include John W. Davis. A finding aid is available in the library.

Papers: In the Charles Warren Papers, 1874-1954, approximately 6,000 items.
Correspondents include John W. Davis. A finding aid is available in the library.


The Morgan Library
Department of Literary and Historical Manuscripts
New York, NY
Papers: 1943, 1 item.
A letter from John W. Davis to Mrs. Juliet Morgan Hamilton written on March 14, 1943. In the letter, John W. Davis offers his condolences on the death of her brother, J.P. Morgan.


Tennessee State Library and Archives
Nashville, TN
Papers: In the Cordell Hull Papers, ca. 1901-1932, 750 items.
Correspondents include John W. Davis. An unpublished finding aid is available in the repository.


University of Michigan
Bentley Historical Library
Ann Arbor, MI
Papers: In the Horatio J. Abbott Papers, 1906-1948, 2 folders.
Correspondents include John W. Davis.

Papers: In the George Murphy Papers, 1911-1961, 15 linear feet and 1 volume.
Other authors include John W. Davis.

Papers: In the Rebecca Shelley Papers, 1890-1984, 21 linear feet and 1 outsize folder.
Other authors include John W. Davis. A finding aid is available in the repository and online.

Papers: In the Thomas Clarkson Trueblood Papers, 1916-1928, 65 items.
Other authors include John W. Davis.


University of Virginia
The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
Charlottesville, VA
Papers: In the Hampson Gary Papers, 1893-1943, 50 items.
Correspondents include John W. Davis.


Washington and Lee University
Lewis F. Powell, Jr. Archives, School of Law
Lexington, VA
Papers: 1888-1953, 1 cubic foot and 3 oversize folders.
The papers of John W. Davis contain documentation from when he was in law school at Washington and Lee, certificates and awards, photographs, paintings and drawings, and artifacts.

Papers: 1895-1930, 0.2 linear foot.
Includes typescript of a speech delivered by John W. Davis at Martinsburg, West Virginia (January 4, 1905); law license (1895); statements of assets (1904-1917); correspondence, and miscellaneous documents (1898-1930).


Washington and Lee University
Special Collections
Lexington, VA
Papers: In the LeRoy Hodges Papers, 1908-1942, 13 feet.
Correspondents include John W. Davis. An unpubished finding aid is available in the repository.


West Virginia University Library
Morgantown, WV
Papers: 1886-1953, 5 feet.
Scrapbooks, diaries, correspondence and papers of the noted lawyer and 1924 presidential aspirant for the Democrats, John W. Davis, kept by his daughter, a famous author, Julia Davis Adams. Noteworthy is a 1948 official publication in tribune to Davis' career as Solicitor General of the United States. There is a typescript copy of his diary recounting his wartime and post-war tenure (1918-21) as ambassador to Great Britain. His letters include some of his candid feelings about the political events of his day such as the New Deal and tributes to his scholarly approach to practicing law from Supreme Court Justices Robert H. Jackson and Felix Frankfurter.

Papers: ca. 1924-1953, 32 items.
Correspondence of the 1924 Democratic presidential nominee; draft of a speech on legislative power; tickets to the Democratic National Convention in New York; and a poem concerning Davis's candidacy for president in 1924. Correspondence is between Davis and his nephew, John J.D. Preston, of Charleston. Subjects mentioned include politics, World War II, Davis's law practice, and family matters.

  • Davis, John William. Party Government in the United States. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1929.
  • ------. Taxation; An Address ... January Twenty-fourth, Nineteen Twenty-four. [N.p., n.d.]
  • ------. The Unguarded Boundary. Birmingham: Printed by order of the Council of the Birmingham and Midland Institute, 1920
  • Harbaugh, William Henry. Lawyer's Lawyer: The Life of John W. Davis. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973.
  • Huntley, Theodore A. The Life of John W. Davis. Edited, with a compilation of speeches, by Horace Green. New York: Duffield and Company, 1924.
  • McWilliams, Tennant S. "John W. Davis and Southern Wilsonianism." Virginia Quarterly Review 64 (Summer 1988): 398-416.