Attorney and presidential candidate John W. Davis was born in Clarksburg on April 13, 1873. The Democrat launched his political career in the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1899, and was elected to Congress in 1911. He resigned shortly into his second term to become U.S. solicitor general and later served as President Woodrow Wilson’s ambassador to England.
In 1924, Democrats nominated Davis for president on their convention’s 103rd ballot. But, in the general election, he was trounced by President Calvin Coolidge in a Republican landslide. Not only did Davis lose his home state of West Virginia, he failed to carry even his native Clarksburg. However, he remains the only West Virginian ever nominated as a presidential candidate by a major party.
Davis managed a white-shoe law practice in New York until his death in 1955 at age 81. He argued 141 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court but is best remembered for his last one. In 1952, he fought to continue racial segregation in South Carolina. This was one of four cases that were rolled into the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case.