John W. Davis (governor)

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For other people named John Davis, see John Davis (disambiguation).
John W. Davis
John William Davis Rhode Island.jpg
Member of the Rhode Island Senate
from the district
38th & 41st Governor of Rhode Island
In office
May 29, 1887 – May 29, 1888
May 27, 1890 – May 26, 1891
Lieutenant Samuel R. Honey
William T. C. Wardwell
Preceded by George P. Wetmore
Herbert W. Ladd
Succeeded by Royal C. Taft
Herbert W. Ladd
Personal details
Born John William Davis
(1826-03-07)March 7, 1826
Rehoboth, Massachusetts, USA
Died January 25, 1907(1907-01-25) (aged 80)
Resting place Riverside Cemetery, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, USA[1]
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Lydia W. Kenyon, Emily P. Goffe
Residence Pawtucket, Rhode Island, USA
Occupation Mason, teacher
Religion Episcopalian
Military service
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch National Guard
Years of service 1861–1865
Unit Rhode Island National Guard
Battles/wars American Civil War

John William Davis (March 7, 1826 – January 25, 1907) was a United States Democratic politician, who served as the 38th and 41st Governor of Rhode Island (1887–1888 and 1890–1891).

Early life[edit]

Born in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, Davis attended public schools in Rehoboth and a private school in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Before entering politics, he was engaged in various occupations, including mechanical masonry, teaching, and grain dealing. Davis started a grain business with his brother in 1850, and remained a partner in the business until his retirement in 1890. During the American Civil War, he served in the Rhode Island Militia.

Political career[edit]

Davis moved to Pawtucket, Rhode Island in 1877, and in 1882 was elected President of the Town Council. He was reelected to the position in 1885. Davis was also elected to the Rhode Island Senate in 1885. For a number of years he was a Rhode Island State Senator, before he was appointed by fellow Democratic President Grover Cleveland as an Appraiser of Foreign Merchandise for the Providence U.S. Customs District.

Davis became Democratic gubernatorial nominee in 1887 and defeated incumbent Republican George P. Wetmore. In his bid Davis was supported by many Republicans, who were dissatisfied.

During his first term as governor, the Women’s Suffrage Amendment to the state constitution was approved, the boundary line between Rhode Island and Connecticut was established, and election laws were reformed to eliminate fraud. Davis was defeated for re-election in 1888 by Republican candidate Royal C. Taft, and was defeated in 1889 by Herbert W. Ladd.

Davis was elected governor again in 1890 and served until 1891. During his second administration the governor was given authorization to appoint a commission to revise and codify general statutes, and funds were appropriated for completion of a Soldiers’ Home. He undertok the construction of College Hall at the University of Rhode Island, then the largest building on campus. When it burned down in 1895 and was rebuilt, it was renamed Davis Hall in his honor.[2]

Davis was defeated for re-election once again in 1891, but did not retire from active politics; he was elected to the state Senate in 1892, and Mayor of Pawtucket in 1897.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Davis was married three times: to Lydia W. Kenyon (died 1859); Emily P. Goffe, two children; and Marietta P. Pearse. Davis was raised Methodist and later became Episcopalian.

Davis died on January 25, 1907, and is interred at Riverside Cemetery in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.[4]


  1. ^ "Davis, John William (1826–1907)". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved September 18, 2008. 
  2. ^ "URI History and Timeline". University of Rhode Island. Retrieved Jul 18, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Rhode Island Governor John William Davis". National Governors Association. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 
  4. ^ "John William Davis". Find A Grave. Retrieved August 24, 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Mohr, Ralph S. Governors for Three Hundred Years (1638–1954): Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. State of Rhode Island, Graves Registration Committee, August 1954.
  • The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 9. New York: James T. White & Company.
  • Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789–1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

External links[edit]