Governor James “Jimmie” Houston Davis
Governor Jimmie Davis is credited with creating the State Employees’ Retirement System in 1946. He and his administration sponsored legislation, according to the original bill, that would provide “a retirement fund for aged and incapacitated officers and employees of the State of Louisiana and their beneficiaries.” Established with Act 126, Gov. Davis was known to say that the creation of the retirement system in his first term (1944-1948) was one of his finest achievements.
Elected at 43 years old in 1944, Davis was considered an anti-Huey Long reform governor, but was better known as a “fancy-dressing hillbilly tenor” who had already sold more than a million records before entering politics. His biggest country/western hits included, “You Are My Sunshine,” “Nobody’s Darlin’ but Mine,” and “It Makes No Difference Now.” Davis was known as the Singing Governor and famously campaigned with his band, giving short speeches, and pleasing the crowd with his music. He said, “It’s better in a political campaign to give folks very little talking and a whole lot of songs.”
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT JIMMIE:
- During his first term as governor, he traveled to Hollywood and Nashville to make B western movies and sing, earning him the nickname, “the absentee governor.” He also scored five Top Five singles during this period of time.
- He saw to it that drivers of automobiles were finally licensed in his first administration, and he got the first Driver’s License issued in the state.
Governor Davis riding Sunshine at the State Capitol
- In 1947, he starred in a movie, “Louisiana,” about his life growing up as a sharecropper’s son, and ending with his election as governor of the state.
- On inauguration day of his second term, in 1960, he wore a white cowboy hat and rode his horse, Sunshine, up the steps of the Louisiana Capitol to sing the praises of his legislative agenda.
- His performing career spans eight decades; he was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1971, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
- His smash hit, “You Are My Sunshine,” is one of the state songs of Louisiana. It has been recorded by hundreds of artists over the past 80 years, sold millions of records, translated into over 30 languages, and is considered “one of the most commercially programmed numbers in American popular music.”
When Gov. Davis passed away at 101 years old in 2000, his fame and achievements were recognized in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Times Picayune, and other newspapers throughout the country. It seems his political career was overshadowed by the wonderful body of music he left behind.
When asked late in life how he wanted to be remembered, he replied, as “someone who scattered a little sunshine along his path.”