JIMMIE DAVIS Biography - Musicians


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Name: Jimmie Davis                                                                       
Born: 11 September 1899 Quitman, Louisiana                                               
Died: 5 November 2000 Baton Rouge, Louisiana                                             
James Houston Davis (September 11, 1899 - November 5, 2000), better known as             
Jimmie Davis, was a noted singer of both sacred and popular songs who served two         
nonconsecutive terms as a Democratic governor of Louisiana (1944-1948 and 1960-1964).     
Davis was born to a sharecropping couple in the now ghost town of Beech Springs,         
near Quitman in Jackson Parish in 1899, to Sarah Elizabeth Works and Samuel               
Jones Davis. The family was so poor that young Jimmie did not have a bed in               
which to sleep until he was nine years old.                                               
He graduated from Beech Springs High School and Soule Business College, New               
Orleans campus. The late Congressman Otto Ernest Passman, a Louisiana Democrat,           
also graduated from Soule, but from the Bogalusa campus. Davis received his               
bachelor's degree in history from the Baptist-affiliated Louisiana College in             
Pineville. He received a master's degree from Louisiana State University in               
Baton Rouge.                                                                             
Davis became a commercially successful singer of rural music before he entered           
politics. His early work was in the style of early country music luminary Jimmie         
Rodgers, and he was also known for recording raunchy blues tunes like "Red               
Nightgown Blues." Some of these records included slide guitar accompaniment by           
black bluesman Oscar Woods.                                                               
He is associated with several popular songs, most notably "You Are My Sunshine,"         
which was designated an official state song of Louisiana in 1977. He claimed             
that he wrote the song while attending graduate school at LSU, but research               
indicates he bought it from another performer Paul Rice, who had recorded it             
with his brother Hoke, who recorded together as the Rice Brothers under Paul             
Rice's name. The practice of buying songs from their composers was a common               
practice during the 1930s through the 1960s. Some writers in need of cash often           
sold tunes to others.                                                                     
Rice himself had adapted it from another person's poem. Reportedly, the song was         
copyrighted under Davis' name and that of longtime sideman Charles Mitchell,             
after they purchased it from Rice. Davis also purchased the country ballad "It           
Makes No Difference Now" from its composer Floyd Tillman. Tillman later had his           
composer credit restored alongside Davis's.                                               
In 1999, "You Are My Sunshine" was honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award and           
the Recording Industry Association of America named it one of the Songs of the           
Century. "You Are My Sunshine" was ranked #73 on CMT's 100 Greatest Songs in             
Country Music in 2003. Until his death, Davis insisted that he wrote the song.           
In any case, it will forever be associated with him.                                     
Davis taught history (and, unofficially, yodeling) for a year at the former Dodd         
College for Girls in Shreveport during the late 1920s. He was hired by the               
college president, Monroe Elmon Dodd, who was also the pastor of the large First         
Baptist Church of Shreveport and a pioneer radio preacher.                               
Davis became the popular "singing governor" who often performed music during his         
campaign stops. While governor, he had a No. 1 hit single in 1945 with "There's           
a New Moon Over My Shoulder." A long-time member of the Baptist faith, he also           
recorded a number of southern gospel albums and in 1967 served as president of           
the Gospel Music Association. He was a close friend of the North Dakota-born             
band leader Lawrence Welk who frequently reminded viewers of his television               
program of his association with Governor Davis.                                           
A number of his songs were used as part of motion picture soundtracks, and Davis         
himself appeared in half a dozen films, one with the popular entertainers Ozzie           
and Harriet.                                                                             
Davis was elected as the city's Democratic public safety commissioner. (At the           
time, Shreveport had a commission form of government. In the 1970s, the city             
switched to the mayor-council format.) Davis was elected in 1942 to the                   
Louisiana Public Service Commission but left the rate-making body, which meets           
in Baton Rouge, two years later to become governor.