John W. Davis

Clarksburg Exponent
March 25, 1955

Exponent Editorial

A Great Clarksburger Dies

Note for Readers: In the following article a member of The Exponent news staff pays tribute to John W. Davis, an internationally known Clarksburger who died Wednesday in a Charleston, S. C. Hospital.

John W. Davis, distinguished native son of Clarksburg and internationally known statesman, lawyer and orator, is dead, and our city, his birthplace, is sad.

The world mourns as the word of the passing of this great man is made known, and here in his home town among the hills there's a feeling of sorrow that is particularly acute.

As a lad Mr. Davis was popular in Clarksburg and the citizens affectionately called him John. As a young man he practiced in the local courts and took part in the political and civic life of the community. He became a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, a start in a political career which was to bring him the highest honor of the Democratic Party, that of the party's nomination for President of the United States.

Clarksburg relatives and friends fondly recall John W.'s intermittent visits here after his political endeavors and his legal practice kept him in Washington and New York most of the time. The middle- aged and older residents of Clarksburg remember the homecoming of 1924, when John W. delivered an eloquent address from a specially-constructed rostrum in Goff Plaza in accepting the nomination for the Presidency.

No one, not even in a political campaign, ever questioned the integrity of John W. Davis. He was honest to the "nth" degree, and in and out of political campaigns and in and out of the courtroom he pursued his beliefs with eloquent argument and diligence almost without parallel.

Politically, we had sometimes differed with him, especially in recent years, when he became more of an independent in politics. But though we differed with his political views, we knew that he was sincere in his opinions and in his public stands and we respected him for it. Our columns always spoke favorably of him.

Elsewhere John W. Davis will be remembered because of the 1924 political campaign, his service at the Court of St. James, his friendship for Woodrow Wilson and the latter's great dependence upon him for advice, his work as a constitutional lawyer, and his ability as an orator.

We Clarksburgers will remember him for those things too. But we'll also think kindly of the days when he took to the hustings here as a successful candidate for Congress, of the cases he tried in the local courts, of his remarks at public meetings, and of his intermittent visits back home. We'll remember that when he visited here he regularly looked up an old colored man who had befriended him in his boyhood days and secretly gave him a few dollars. We'll think of his homespun philosophy and of the fact that while he spent most of the past 40 years away from Clarksburg, he always considered this his home town.

We'll remember him as having been one of us and we'll always be proud to tell those we may visit in other states that we're from the home town of John W. Davis. We'll think of Mr. Davis as a home town boy who went to the city and not only "made good" but attained political and legal heights such as few Americans have known. He was one of the greatest of noted Americans. True, he didn't become President of the United States, but the history of America undoubtedly would have been different had this kind and sagacious man spent a few years at the helm of our government.

It is often said among those in the legal profession that John W. Davis had argued more cases before the United States Supreme Court than any other attorney in the nation's history, with the possible exception of Daniel Webster. He had been counsel in some of the nation's most important legal battles, among them the case in which he successfully resisted government seizure of the steel mills.

It is unfortunate that John W. Davis has lost his greatest debate - that with death. We are told that as he seemed on the road to recovery a short time before death, he expressed the desire to go home. He doubtless looked forward to more service for his fellowman.

His lifetime is over, but John W. Davis' wise counsel has left an indelible mark on the history of the nation, and his friendliness and natural love for his neighbors have placed his name forever in the hearts and minds of Clarksburgers. For generations to come folks of this city will be telling strangers they meet elsewhere that they're from the home town of John W. Davis.

Government and Politics

West Virginia Archives and History