John W. Davis

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John William Davis
John W. Davis West Virginia.jpg
Former President of the Council on Foreign Relations
From: ??? – ???
Predecessor ???
Successor ???
Former United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom
From: August 30, 1913 – November 26, 1918
President Woodrow Wilson
Warren G. Harding
Predecessor Walter Page
Successor George Harvey
Former Solicitor General of the United States
From: August 30, 1913 – November 26, 1918
Predecessor William Bullitt
Successor Alexander King
Former U.S. Representative from West Virginia's 1st Congressional District
From: March 4, 1911 – August 29, 1913
Predecessor William Hubbard
Successor Matthew Neely
Party Democrat
Spouse(s) Julia McDonald (died 1900)
Ellen Bassel (died 1943)

John William Davis (April 13, 1873 – March 24, 1955) was the Democratic Party's nominee for president of the United States in 1924, losing to Calvin Coolidge. He was a two-term U.S. representative for West Virginia's 1st congressional district in the early 1910s, and subsequently served under the administration of President Woodrow Wilson.

Davis is often labeled as a "conservative Democrat" by some sources,[1][2] which ignores his liberal voting record,[3] defense of subversive communist infiltrators, and advocacy of globalism. Indeed, Davis was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations,[4] which he was the president of at one point.[5]

Political career

In 1899, Davis was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates. A decade later, he won election to the United States House of Representatives,[6] where he was re-elected.[7]

Davis notably was a defender of Eugene V. Debs, who led socialist causes.[8]

When Solicitor General under President Wilson, Davis defended progressive policies including the federal income tax.[8]

During the 1928 presidential election, Davis supported party nominee Al Smith,[8] who lost the general election to Herbert Hoover by a landslide. He similarly backed Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, though quickly broke from FDR and joined some business interests opposing the New Deal.[8] Nevertheless, he came to the adamant defense of Roosevelt's foreign policy during World War II and supported the Lend-Lease Act.[8]

Later defeats

In Alger Hiss's 1949–50 trial, Davis testified as a character witness on behalf of the Soviet agent Hiss,[9] yet Hiss was convicted of perjury. In 1954, Davis defended segregation in Brown v. Board of Education, but was again defeated.[10]

Later that year, he joined with the white-shoe law firm representing the secret Communist J. Robert Oppenheimer.[11] Davis's team went down to defeat yet again when the Atomic Energy Commission upheld its Personal Security Board's ruling stripping Oppenheimer of his clearance. He died the following year at the age of eighty-one.[8]


  1. A Guide to the John W. Davis Collection 1888-1953. Virginia Heritage. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  2. John W. Davis. Britannica. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  3. Fascinating Politics (October 19, 2019). Examining the Ideology of Presidents. Mad Politics: The Bizarre, Fascinating, and Unknown of American Political History. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  4. Davis, J.. The Political Graveyard. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  5. November 24, 1922. EXPLAINS CLEMENCEAU TRIP; John W. Davis Says Council on Foreign Relations Invited Him.. The New York Times. Full version available here. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  6. WV District 1 Race - Nov 08, 1910. Our Campaigns. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  7. WV District 1 Race - Nov 05, 1912. Our Campaigns. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 March 25, 1955. Death Claims John W. Davis At 81. West Virginia Archives & History. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  9. Doug Linder (2003), "The Trials of Alger Hiss: A Commentary," The Alger Hiss Trials, 1949-50, Famous Trials (University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law). Cf. John W. Davis, Bioguide, United States Congress.
  10. Judge Arnette R. Hubbard, "Brown, et al v. Board of Education," Illinois Commission on the 50th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.
  11. Alan Simpson, "The Re-Trial of the Oppenheimer Case," The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Educational Foundation for Nuclear Science, Inc.), Vol. 10, No. 10 (December 1954), p. 387.

External links

  • Profile at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress