Jimmie Davis 1902 - 2000

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Thursday 1st February 2001

Veteran Jimmie Davis dies aged 98

THE LEGENDARY "Singing Governor," Jimmie Davis, well known for songs like "You Are My Sunshine" and "Suppertime", died in his sleep on November 5th at his Baton Rouge, LA home. Former Governor of Louisiana Davis was reportedly 101, though he once admitted he wasn't quite sure about his age, and some sources cite his birth date as September 11, 1902. He was a member of both the Gospel Music Hall Of Fame and the Country Music Hall Of Fame. Last year, "You Are My Sunshine" was named a Towering Song by the Songwriters' Hall Of Fame. "He was absolutely one of a kind," says Maggie Lewis Warwick, a Shreveport based singer/songwriter and "Louisiana Hayride" producer. "The fact that he excelled at both politics and his music was phenomenal. As far as his influence on Louisiana and the music scene, he's just irreplaceable."

Born James Houston Davis in Beech Springs, LA, Davis had an impressive career in both music and politics. Despite humble beginnings as a sharecropper's son, he earned a bachelor's degree from Louisiana College Pineville, as well as a master's from Louisiana State University in 1927. After graduation he took a teaching post at a college in Shreveport, but the entertainment bug bit and he soon found himself performing on local radio stations. He recorded his first project in 1928 and signed with the Victor label a year later. A prolific artist, he recorded 70 sides for the label before moving to Decca Records in 1934. Davis recorded several hits, including "Nobody's Darling But Mine" and "It Makes No Difference Now," but his biggest success came from his self-penned "You Are My Sunshine," which has become standard. However, music wasn't his only passion, and the winning personality that made him a successful recording artist also served him well in politics. He became chief of police in Shreveport in 1938 and moved to state government four years later, when he was elected Louisiana's public service commissioner. He was elected Governor of Louisiana in 1944 and served four years. He again served as Louisiana governor from 1960-64. During his tenure, Davis is credited with creating the state's first driver's licenses and successfully navigating Louisiana during the desegregation battles of the early 1960s.

All the while he was excelling in politics, he never abandoned his entertainment career. He scored five hit singles during his first term including "Is It Too Late Now", "There's A Chill On The Hill Tonight" and "There's A New Moon Over My Shoulder". He also starred in three western films in the '40s, including a semi-autobiographical role in the 1947 movie Louisiana. Davis also had a successful career in gospel music with such hits as "Suppertime". A prolific songwriter, Davis is credited with writing more than 400 songs and recording at least 52 albums. "Governor Jimmie Davis has made a significant contribution to gospel music, as well as music in general," says Gospel Music Association (GMA) president Frank Breeden. "He was president of GMA in 1967 and inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall Of Fame in 1972. His wife, Anna Carter Davis, was one of the original members of the famed Chuck Wagon Gang. Our industry shares the loss felt by the music community around the world. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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