JAMES O. DAVIDSON was born in Upper Aardal, Sogn, Norway. In 1872, his family immigrated to Minnesota and then moved to Boscobel, Wisconsin, where Davidson worked as both a farmhand and tailor. He later established successful businesses in Soldiers Grove, where he was elected village president and later treasurer. He won three two-year terms in the State Assembly, followed by his 1898 election as State Treasurer, a position that he held for five years. In 1902 he was selected Lieutenant Governor by Robert La Follette, with whom he ran again in 1904. When La Follette resigned the governorship to become a U.S. Senator, Davidson succeeded him, going on to win election in his own right in 1906 despite the efforts of La Follette’s progressive followers to replace him, and winning reelection in 1908. During Davidson’s tenure, state regulation of the railroads was extended to include public utilities, telegraph, telephone, electricity, water companies, and the insurance industry. After retiring from office, he was appointed by his gubernatorial successor to a five-year term as president of the State Board of Control. He died and was buried in Madison.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 14. New York: James T. White & Company.
Wisconsin Historical Society