James Houston Davis
Born: September 11, 1899 near Beech Springs, Louisiana
Political Affiliation: Democrat
Religious Affiliation: Baptist
Education: Louisiana College and LSU
Career Prior to Term: Member of Public Service Commission; country/western and gospel singer.
How He Became Governor: Elected in 1944 and in 1960.
Career after Term: Continued writing music and performing.
Died: November 5, 2000 at his home in Baton Rouge. Buried at the Jimmie Davis Tabernacle Cemetery in Jonesboro, LA
Jimmie Davis won his first gubernatorial election in 1944 with the support of reform Governor Jones. Davis at first thought he should avoid mixing his two careers of country music and politics. After a campaign stop in Shreveport, however, where he was accused of "going high hat" because he would not sing, Davis decided to speak for a while and sing "three or four songs". He continued that strategy at every campaign rally throughout his political career which constantly frustrated his opponents.
Davis' first term benefited from wartime and postwar prosperity. He continued Jones' reform program, but also he traveled to Hollywood and Nashville to make "B movies" and sing.
Davis' accomplishments included the establishment of a State Retirement System and the funding of more than $100 million in public improvements leaving the state a $38 million surplus.
For his second term, Davis secured the support of the third strongest candidate, Willie Rainach, the chief of the segregationist movement in Louisiana, to defeat Chep Morrison. Davis used the segregation issue to come from behind and that issue dominated his 2nd term. During that period he built the Sunshine Bridge, the new Governor's Mansion and the Toledo Bend Reservoir - all criticized at the time, but now recognized as beneficial to the state.
Jimmie Davis died peacefully in his sleep at his Baton Rouge home on November 5, 2000. He was 101 years old and had continued to make public appearances until a few months before his passing. Following visitation in Baton Rouge, his funeral was held at the Jimmie Davis Tabernacle in Jonesboro, LA. He is buried in the cemetery there.