Skip to main content

Jeff Davis Papers

Identifier: MC 718

Scope and Content Note

Correspondence, literary productions, printed materials, legal and financial documents, scrapbooks, and photographs created, collected, or received by Jeff Davis and his descendants.

The Jeff Davis papers contain documents pertaining to the personal and professional life of all four generations of the family, from Lewis Davis and Frank Thatch in the nineteenth century, to Jeff Davis, Jr. in the 1980s.


  • 1849-1986


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Access Information

Please call (479) 575-8444 or email at least two weeks in advance of your arrival to ensure availability of the materials.

Use Information

Restrictions apply: Copyrights, where applicable, will remain with the donor, Jeff Davis, Jr. Researchers interested in publishing materials from the Jeff Davis Papers must obtain permission from the donor.

No Interlibrary Loan.

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Biographical Note

Jeff Davis (1862-1913) was, in turn, Arkansas Attorney General, Governor, and United States Senator during his political career from 1898 to 1913. Born in Rocky Comfort, Arkansas, to Lewis and Elizabeth Davis, Jeff moved with his parents to Dover, Arkansas, in 1868 after Lewis had given up his former profession of preaching to engage in the practice of law. Lewis Davis was a respected member of the bar at Dover and enjoyed similar prestige when he and his family made their final move a few miles south to Russellville in 1873. Jeff graduated from the public schools at Russellville and in 1878 attended classes at the Arkansas Industrial University at Fayetteville. After two years at AIU, Jeff next attended Vanderbilt University in Memphis, Tennessee. He returned to Arkansas without a degree from this institution in 1881 and was admitted to the bar despite the handicap, but then returned to the Volunteer State the following year to complete his formal education at Cumberland University. He began the practice of law in partnership with his father at Russellville in 1882. In that same year Davis also married Ina McKenzie Thatch of Russellville. Ina was the stepdaughter of Frank Thatch, former County Judge of Pope County, and Janie McKenzie Thatch. Her natural father, Duncan G.L. McKenzie, had been a preacher before his death during the Civil War and, as a result, Ina shared Jeff's heritage of both the clerical and legal professions. Ina and Jeff had twelve children together in the course of their marriage, but only eight lived beyond infancy.

After establishing a reputation as a brilliant courtroom orator, Jeff Davis began his political career in 1888 when he ran for prosecuting attorney for the Russellville judicial district. He left the office in 1894, unsuccessfully ran for Congressman of the Fourth Congressional District of Arkansas, and continued in private law practice until 1898. That year he sought and won election as Arkansas Attorney General by a combination of sheer luck and skillful campaigning as a backwoods lawyer championing the cause of the common man. His vigorous enforcement of an antitrust law during his tenure as Attorney General won Davis a broad political support which led to a successful campaign for the governor's office in 1900. He served three terms as Governor, being the first man in the history of Arkansas to do so. Davis next set his sights on a seat in the United States Senate, but ironically lost control of his political machine when he won the office because his chosen successor as Governor, George Little, became physically incapable of serving. Davis's career in the Senate was uneventful, and he spent a great deal of his time back in Arkansas practicing as a private attorney with his partner, Frank Pace. Shortly after winning a second term as U.S. Senator, Jeff Davis died of heart failure on January 3, 1913. His sons, Wallace and Jeff Davis, also became lawyers. Wallace became Arkansas Attorney General in 1915 after Governor George Hays appointed him to fill a vacancy. Jeff Davis attended Harvard Law School and entered private practice in El Dorado, Arkansas, where he worked for the oil business. His son, Jeff Davis, Jr., carried on the family tradition of law and politics by first serving as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas in 1963, and made an unsuccessful bid for prosecuting attorney for Pulaski and Perry Counties in 1966.


8.5 Linear Feet (14 boxes)

Arrangement of the Papers

This collection is organized into the following series and subseries:

  1. Series I. Personal and Biographical, 1848-1986
  2. Series I, Subseries 1. Correspondence, 1859-1962, undated
  3. Series I, Subseries 2. Printed Materials, 1902-1960
  4. Series I, Subseries 3. Literary Productions, ca 1870s-1986
  5. Series I, Subseries 4. Legal Documents, 1848-1959
  6. Series I, Subseries 5. Financial Documents, 1887-1966
  7. Series II. Professional and Political Papers, 1877-1977
  8. Series II, Subseries 1. General correspondence, 1877-1977
  9. Series II, Subseries 2. Pension and War Claims, 1907-1912
  10. Series II, Subseries 3. Case Files, 1907-1912
  11. Series II, Subseries 4. Financial Records, 1895-1975
  12. Series II, Subseries 5. Literary Productions, 1904-1970
  13. Series II, Subseries 6. Legal Documents, 1887-1935
  14. Series II, Subseries 7. Printed Materials, 1894-1966
  15. Series III. Scrapbooks, 1899-1913
  16. Series IV. Photographs, ca 1900-1960

Note: There is no box 13.

Acquisition Information

The Jeff Davis Papers were donated to Special Collections by Jeff Davis, Jr., Little Rock, Arkansas, on December 22, 1987.

Processing Information

Processed by Kim Allen Scott, December 1988. Special Collections Division, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas.



Jeff Davis Papers
Kim Allen Scott
December 1988
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Department Repository

University of Arkansas Libraries
365 N. McIlroy Avenue
Fayetteville AR 72701 United States
(479) 575-8444