WESTMORELAND DAVIS was born on board a ship bound for Liverpool, England from Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Virginia Military Institute in 1877, and completed a year of post-graduate study at the University of Virginia in 1883, and received an LL.B. degree from Columbia University in 1887. He practiced law in New York City for fifteen years and served as general counsel for a number of insurance firms. In 1903, he discontinued his law practice and returned to Virginia, where he began farming. Making a careful study of scientific farming, he played a significant role in improving agricultural methods in the state. He went on to serve as president of the Virginia State Farmers’ Institute from 1908 to 1915, shortly after which he was elected governor in 1917. As governor, he introduced the executive budget system, which was widely heralded and adopted in eight other states. Also during his administration, the state prison system was overhauled, prohibition was introduced, the right to vote was extended to women, and a State Industrial Commission was created to administer a new workers compensation law. After leaving office, Davis purchased and became editor and publisher of the Southern Planter, a newspaper devoted to agricultural, livestock raising and eventually political issues. He served once again as president of the Virginia State Farmers’ Institute from 1923 to 1924 and from 1941 to 1942. He was also a member of the Board of Visitors of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and President of the Virginia State Fair Association.
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Washington Post, September 3, 1942, p. 1 (obituary).
Younger, Edward and Moore, James Tice, eds. The Governors of Virginia, 1860-1978. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1982.