JOHN F. DAVIS
A distinguished representative of the bar, Judge Davis has won prominence in connection with the legal profession and the political interests of the state, his name being deeply engraved on the judicial records of northern California. A resident of Jackson, Amador County, he was born on Angel Island, Marin County, this state, on the 5th of June, 1859. His father, John F. Davis, was a native of county Wexford, Ireland, and when very young came to California. In 1858 he was united in marriage to Miss Mary Scally, a descendant of the noted O’Kane family of Dunseverick. The father in 1860 lost his life by drowning in the bay of San Francisco. His untimely death left his widow with two children, John F. and Margaret. Though she afterward married and the issue of the marriage was a son, named Edward, the young widow at first had a hard struggle, and Judge Davis has always claimed that he owed everything in life to his mother.
The Judge obtained his preliminary education in the (then) North Cosmopolitan grammar school of San Francisco, and later attended the Boys’ High School of that city, being graduated at the latter institution in the class of 1876. Subsequently he took a post-graduate course of one year under Professor W. T. Reid, who was afterward the president of the State University. Thus well prepared for college, in 1877 Mr. Davis entered Harvard University at Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was graduated in 1881, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts, winning high honors in his class. He was chosen as one of the commencement orators of the graduation exercises, and won the respect and admiration of his fellow students as well as his preceptors by his excellent scholarship. After the completion of his college course he returned to California and entered the Hastings College of Law, at which he was graduated in 1884, being again chosen one of the orators on the occasion of the graduation exercises. Admitted to the bar by the supreme court of the state, he at once began practice. In order to pursue his law studies he taught Greek and mathematics in San Francisco and Berkeley during the three years in which he prepared for his chosen profession. The self-reliance, resolution and energy which thus enabled him to make his own way through the law schools have been important factors in his later success.
Becoming a member of the San Francisco bar, Mr. Davis practiced there for a short time, after which he spent two years in Europe in travel and study, becoming proficient in the French and German languages through daily use of the same. He attended a course of lectures in Paris at the Ecole des Sciences Politiques, and later returned to California, taking up his residence in Calaveras County in order to assist in the management of the Esmeralda gold mine. However, after a few years spent in the management of that mining property, he resumed the practice of law and soon won distinctive preferment as a representative of the legal profession. In the fall of 1892 he was the Republican candidate for congress in the second district of the state, but met defeat in the great Democratic tidal wave of that year. A month after the election Governor Markham appointed him judge of the superior court of Amador County, to serve out the unexpired term of Judge C. B. Armstrong, deceased. At that time Judge Davis transferred his residence to Jackson, where he has since made his home. Upon the expiration of his term on the bench he declined his party’s nomination for that office and resumed the private practice of law, in which he has met with gratifying success, retaining a large and distinctively representative clientage.
On the 26th of November, 1896, the Judge was happily married to Miss Lillian Parks, a native of Sierra County, California, and a daughter of James F. Parks, who is the superintendent of the Kennedy mine, of Amador County. They now have two interesting little daughters, Mary and Ruth. Judge Davis is a member of the Native Sons of the Golden West, taking an active part in its work and being often a member of the grand parlor. He is also a member of the Harvard and Union League Clubs of San Francisco, of the Beta Theta Pi Greek letter fraternity, and of the California State Miners’ Association. In politics he is a staunch Republican, active in the conventions of his party and earnest in his advocacy of its principles. In 1898 he was elected to the state senate from the fourteenth district, an office which he still holds.
While undoubtedly he is not without that honorable ambition which is so powerful and useful an incentive to activity in public affairs, he regards the pursuits of private life as being in themselves abundantly worthy of his best efforts. His is a noble character, one that subordinates personal ambition to the public good and seeks rather the benefit of others than the aggrandizement of self. His career has been conspicuously successful. Endowed by nature with high intellectual qualities, to which have been added the discipline and embellishment of culture, his is a most attractive personality. Well versed in the learning of his profession and with a deep knowledge of human nature and of the springs of human conduct, with great shrewdness and sagacity and extraordinary tact, he has been in the courts an advocate of great power and influence. Both judges and jurors always hear him with attention and deep interest, and today he occupies a leading position in the ranks of the legal fraternity of northern California.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.