Saturday, February 9, 2019

Attorney and Legal Scholar Colonel Edwin G. Davis, D.S.M. [otd 02/09]

Colonel Davis. H. T. French photo.
Colonel Edwin G. Davis was born on February 9, 1873, at Samaria, Idaho, near Malad City. An early interest in teaching led him to a year as school principal in Utah, followed by a year as a principal in Malad. Then, in 1896, a member of the U. S. House of Representatives from Idaho secured him an appointment to the Military Academy.

Davis graduated from West Point in June 1900. Three months later, he found himself in the Philippine, where the Army was trying to suppress Filipino independence forces. The following May, Davis was reassigned from the infantry to the artillery. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant less than two months later. He left the Philippines at the end of 1901, and was stationed at Fort Walla Walla for about fifteen months. In 1903, he became an Instructor of Law and History at West Point.

Davis apparently anticipated retirement and a return to Idaho in 1906, and let it be known that he planned to run for Congress in that year's election. His notion was not well received. While conceding his good qualities, pundits observed (Idaho Register, Idaho Falls, March 2, 1906) that after his long absence from the state, "he ought to at least get slightly acquainted with the people before he asks to be rewarded with so important an office."

Perhaps discourage by the reaction, Davis remained in the service. Promoted to captain in early 1907, he was transferred to a post near San Francisco, California, later that year. Nagged by a "physical disability incurred in the line of duty," he applied for a disability retirement, which was granted in 1910. Davis then returned to Idaho and opened a law practice in Malad. That fall, Oneida County voters elected him to the state House of Representatives for the term starting in 1911.

That legislative session was particularly busy, including the promulgation of eight constitutional amendments to be voted on in the next general election. Yet even with that, Governor James H. Hawley had to call a Special Session to correct a revenue Act that was “deficient in several important provisions.” During that Session, Davis served as Floor Leader for the Republican majority in the House.

DSM. U. S. Army
Comparing his prospects in the capital versus those in Southeast Idaho, Davis moved his home to Boise in 1911.

Besides his regular practice, Davis also contributed well-reasoned papers to various legal journals. As an instructor at the Academy, he authored a textbook on constitutional law. A knowledgeable reviewer said of it: “He has accomplished a good work, and not only the Military Academy will be benefited by his labors, but his work is ample for much that the ordinary practicing State lawyer will require.”

He continued to serve in state government, as well as handling a private law practice, until he joined the Judge Advocate General's office during World War I. In July 1918, Colonel Davis received the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal "for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services ... in the administration of military justice during the war."

Davis returned to his Boise legal practice after the war for a time, and also served as a U.S. Attorney General for Idaho in 1921-1925. In 1928, he handled national-scope cases out of Washington, D.C. He died in July 1934 and is buried at West Point.
References: [French], [Hawley]
“Book Review: Law Books at the Military Academy,” Journal of the U. S. Cavalry Association, Vol. XVIII, Leavenworth, Kansas (July 1907-April 1908).
George W. Cullum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S Military Academy, Supplement, Vol. V, Sherman & Peters, Printers, Saginaw, Michigan (1910).
“People of Sioux County, Neb., vs National Surety Co.,” Case 276 U. S. 238, United States Supreme Court (1928).
C. Douglas Sterner (Ed.), Citations for Awards of the Army Distinguished Service Medal, Volume 1 (1862-1942), (2008).
U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca. 1775-2006, National Cemetery Administration.

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