Davis, James H. “Jimmie” (ON HOLD)
2-time segregationist Louisiana governor, singer, songwriter (“You Are My Sunshine”), western film actor
Description: (1899-2000) Louisiana politician, singer and songwriter, elected for 2 terms, 1944-48 & 1960-64, as Louisiana governor. He was a popular country and gospel singer from the 1930s-60s, occasionally recording and performing as late as the early 90s. He appeared as himself in several movies and was inducted into 6 halls of fame, incl. the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame, and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. At his death, he was the oldest living former governor (on March 18, 2011, Washington’s Albert Rosellini achieved a greater lifespan of 101 years, 56 days) and last living governor born in the 19th century.
Born to sharecroppers, 1 of 11 children, young Jimmie did not have a bed to sleep in until he was 9 and his birth date is uncertain. He graduated from college and got a master’s degree from LSU. Davis became a successful singer of rural music before entering politics, in the style of Jimmie Rodgers, and recorded energetic and raunchy blues tunes. In 1999, his “You Are My Sunshine” was honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) named it one of the songs of the century. “You Are My Sunshine” was ranked in 2003 as #73 on CMT’s 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music.
Davis often performed during his campaign stops when running for governor. After election in 1944, he was called “the singing governor.” While governor, he had a 1945 #1 hit single, “There’s a New Moon Over My Shoulder”. He recorded for Victor Talking Machine Co. and Decca Records for decades and released 40+ albums. A Southern Baptist, Davis recorded a number of Southern gospel albums. In 1967 he was president of the Gospel Music Association. A number of his songs were used in motion picture soundtracks. Davis appeared in half a dozen films, incl. one starring Ozzie and Harriet. He was also a close acquaintance of country singer-songwriter Hank Williams with whom he authored the top-10 hit “(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle” in 1951.
Davis was elected governor as a Democrat in 1944 and pleased white liberals by appointing to high positions 2 of the leaders of the impeachment effort against Huey Long. He reached out to the Longites when he commuted the prison sentence imposed on former LSU President James Monroe Smith convicted in a late 30s scandal. Davis kept his hand in show business, and set a record for absenteeism during his 1st term to make numerous Hollywood trips to make Western films.
When he became a candidate for a 2nd term in 1959–60, Davis had been out of office for nearly a dozen years, running when African Americans in the civil rights movement were seeking social justice and restoration of their constitutional rights. With a pledge to fight for continued segregation in public education, Davis won the Democratic primary, the only competitive race for office in the one-party state. Davis tried to identify as a more determined and dedicated segregationist than his rival.
In the general election held April 19, 1960, Davis defeated the GOP candidate by nearly 82–17%. As the Democratic nominee in the nearly one-party state, Davis faced no serious political threat and did little campaigning.
As part of his support of segregation, Davis initiated passage of state legislation to create the Louisiana State Sovereignty Commission which operated 1960-67 and espoused states rights, anti-communist and segregationist ideas, and focus on maintaining the status quo in race relations.
He gained legislative support from many formerly pro-Long lawmakers and cemented his hold on the traditional anti-Long bloc. He avoided defeat on any legislation that he strongly supported and defeated nearly all bills with which he did not concur. He offered tacit support to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson to secure the state’s hold of pending offshore oil revenues. During his 2nd term, Davis built the Sunshine Bridge, the new Governor’s Mansion, and the Toledo Bend Reservoir.
In 1971, Davis entered another crowded Democratic gubernatorial primary and finished 4th. By that time, Davis’ days as a politician were clearly behind him. Toward the end of his life, Davis endorsed at least 2 Republican candidates after the state’s voters went through a political realignment.
Davis appeared in films , usually or always as himself, including: Strictly in the Groove and Riding Through Nevada (1942), Frontier Fury (1943), Cyclone Prairie Rangers (1944), Louisiana (1947), Mississippi Rhythm (1949), and Square Dance Katy (1950).
1983 autograph sentiment (“Best Wishes”) signed & inscribed on 6 x 4 ½ yellow autograph album page (in person signature), identified and dated by collector at left edge vertical.
Condition: Very good, slight pen skip at end of sentiment