Shelby Cullom Davis

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Shelby Cullom Davis
United States Ambassador to Switzerland
In office
July 17, 1969 – April 10, 1975
PresidentRichard Nixon
Gerald Ford
Preceded byJohn S. Hayes
Succeeded byPeter H. Dominick
Personal details
Born(1909-04-01)April 1, 1909
Peoria, Illinois, U.S.
DiedMay 26, 1994(1994-05-26) (aged 85)
Hobe Sound, Florida, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
SpouseKathryn Wasserman Davis (1932-1994, his death)
ChildrenShelby Davis, Diana Cullom Davis Spencer, Priscilla Alden Davis
Alma materThe Lawrenceville School
Princeton University
Columbia University
Graduate Institute of International Studies
OccupationBusinessman, investor, philanthropist

Shelby Cullom Davis (April 1, 1909 – May 26, 1994) was an American businessman, investor, and philanthropist from the state of New York. In 1947 he created Shelby Cullom Davis & Company, which became a leading investment firm. He later served as the American Ambassador to Switzerland under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Originally from Peoria, Illinois, Davis' uncle was Shelby Moore Cullom, who served in the U.S Senate for 30 years and introduced the legislation to create the Interstate Commerce Commission.[1]


After graduating from The Lawrenceville School in 1926, he matriculated to Princeton University, graduating in 1930 and earned a master's degree at Columbia University in 1931. He earned a doctorate in political science at the Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, in 1934. His dissertation was about military personnel in Africa (Reservoirs of men, a history of the black troops of French West Africa).

Thomas E. Dewey[edit]

Shelby joined the staff of District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey as an economist and research assistant. He advised Dewey during his presidential runs in 1940 and 1944 and was later appointed by then-New York Governor Dewey as First Deputy Superintendent of Insurance from 1944 to 1947.

Business career[edit]

Prior to his government service, Shelby had worked as a European correspondent for CBS Radio in Geneva. In 1941 he became a member of the New York Stock Exchange. 6 years later, with an investment of $100,000 he founded and headed Shelby Cullom Davis & Company, an investment firm, specializing in insurance securities. At the time of his death Shelby served as chairman. His son, Shelby Davis, formed Davis Selected Advisers in 1969 and by the 1980s had made the cut for Forbes Magazine's richest 400 Americans.


Davis died at his home in Hobe Sound, Florida, aged 85, following a brief illness. He was survived by his wife of 44 years, Kathryn Wasserman Davis; two children Shelby M. C., of Manhattan; a daughter, Diana D. Spencer and eight grandchildren.


He provided significant financial support to Princeton University, funded chairs and professorships at Wellesley College, and endowed the Cullom - Davis Library at Bradley University.[2] A Professorship of International Security Studies at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy was also instituted in his name.[3] He also provided support to the Library and Museum of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center in NYC. His generous support of the Society of Colonial Wars is recognized in part through the Shelby Cullom Davis Lecture. In December 2013 it was announced that through his charitable fund a $10 million donation was made to Colby College, Waterville, Maine.[4]

The Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies in the Department of History at Princeton University is named after Davis.[5]

The use of funds meant to endow the Shelby Cullom professorship at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut led in part to the resignation of that college's president James Jones, as well as media attention to the donor intent issue.[6][7]


Davis was chairman and treasurer of an eponymous, conservative think tank, the Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation, at the time of his death. He was also affiliated with the Heritage Foundation, The Mayflower Society, Sons of the Revolution, The Society of the Cincinnati and was an officer of The Huguenot Society of America.


  1. ^ "Davis Family Recognition Ceremony". The Heritage Foundation. Oct 9, 2013. Archived from the original on 2021-12-12. Retrieved Jan 7, 2017.
  2. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (June 1, 1994). "Obituaries: Shelby C. Davis, Envoy and Philanthropist, 85". The New York Times. pp. Section B, page 10. Retrieved August 8, 2022.
  3. ^ Pfaltzgraff, Robert L.; Shultz, Richard H. (2013). "International Security Studies: Looking Back and Moving Ahead" (PDF). The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs. The Fletcher School of Law and Dioplomacy. 37 (3): 95–109. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-21. Retrieved Jan 20, 2014.
  4. ^ Scardina, Jesse (Dec 5, 2013). "$10 million gift to help fund Colby College science building". Retrieved Jan 7, 2017.
  5. ^ "Shelby Cullom Davis Center | Department of History". Retrieved 2020-06-11.
  6. ^ "Another Cautionary Tale: The Shelby Cullom Davis Professorship of American Business and Economic Enterprise at Trinity College" in Neal, Anne D., and Michael B. Poliakoff, The Intelligent Donor's Guide to College Giving (American Council of Trustees and Alumni, March 2011) available at
  7. ^ Wooster, Martin Morse, "Games Universities Play: And How Donors Can Avoid Them", John Williams Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, September, 2011 available at

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by United States Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein
Succeeded by