John W. Davis (governor)
|John W. Davis|
|38th & 41st Governor of Rhode Island|
May 27, 1890 – May 26, 1891
|Lieutenant||William T. C. Wardwell|
|Preceded by||Herbert W. Ladd|
|Succeeded by||Herbert W. Ladd|
May 29, 1887 – May 29, 1888
|Lieutenant||Samuel R. Honey|
|Preceded by||George P. Wetmore|
|Succeeded by||Royal C. Taft|
|Born||John William Davis
March 7, 1826
Rehoboth, Massachusetts, USA
|Died||January 25, 1907(aged 80)|
|Resting place||Riverside Cemetery, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, USA|
|Spouse(s)||Lydia W. Kenyon, Emily P. Goffe|
|Residence||Pawtucket, Rhode Island, USA|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Years of service||1861–1865|
|Unit||Rhode Island National Guard|
|Battles/wars||American Civil War|
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.
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.
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, but ran again in 1889 against Herbert W. Ladd.
Plurality is not enough to win
Prior to 1893, Rhode Island's constitution had a majority election requirement; that is, if no candidate for state races received an outright majority, the result would be decided by the General Assembly. This became an issue during a period of four years, 1889-1893, during which the rise of the Prohibition Party caused several state races to be sent to the Assembly for decision. Three times, in 1889, 1890, and 1891, Democrat Davis received more votes than Republican Ladd in the Governor's race, yet did not receive a majority.  The Assembly decided in favor of Ladd twice (1889 and 1891) and for Davis in 1890. This situation was eventually remedied in November 1893 by the adoption of Amendment X to the Rhode Island Constitution, which allowed for a winner by plurality vote.
During Davis's 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.
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.
Davis died on January 25, 1907, and is interred at Riverside Cemetery in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
- "Davis, John William (1826–1907)". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved September 18, 2008.
- Conley, Patrick T. (2011). The Rhode Island State Constitution. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 154. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
- "URI History and Timeline". University of Rhode Island. Retrieved Jul 18, 2010.
- "Rhode Island Governor John William Davis". National Governors Association. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
- "John William Davis". Find A Grave. Retrieved August 24, 2012.
- 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.
George P. Wetmore
|Governor of Rhode Island
Royal C. Taft
Herbert W. Ladd
|Governor of Rhode Island
Herbert W. Ladd