John W. Davis: W.Va.'s Only Presidential Candidate Accepts Nomination 90 Years Ago
On Monday, August 11, 1924, Clarksburg native John W. Davis returned to his hometown to accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. He still holds a place in state history as the only West Virginia to ever receive a major party’s nomination for the position.
After a day of meetings, parades and celebrations, Davis took the stage in the Clarksburg neighborhood of Goff Plaza. With a major storm rolling in, he stood under and umbrella and accepted the nomination amid the sound of thunder and fireworks, set off prematurely.
“Davis never even flinched,” said Rod Rogers, former aide and speechwriter for Gov. Arch Moore who has studied, spoken and written about Davis' life for years.
Davis had a long career in politics behind him. He was first elected to Congress in 1910, a position Rogers said he didn’t campaign for, but was nominated to do and easily won.
“Davis during his entire career didn’t believe that a man should seek the office, but that the office should seek the man which is contrary to the beliefs today in the political system.”
After years in Congress, Davis was appointed Solicitor General and argued more cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court than any attorney in history. He returned to private practice for a time, then was appointed Ambassador to England before returning to the United States and receiving his nomination.
The speech in Clarksburg is significant for many reasons, Rogers noted, the most remarkable of which was that the speech was the first ever broadcast live on the radio. Technicians from KDKA radio in Pittsburgh traveled to Clarksburg and set up their equipment in a field full of tens of thousands of people.
Just a few days later, the same KDKA crew traveled to Washington to broadcast the acceptance speech of then-President Calvin Coolidge.
Rogers has collected more than 4,500 pieces of memorabilia since the late 1980s, including campaign signs and buttons. He said he collects the material and shares Davis’s story because he wants West Virginians to remember their history and recognize the importance of what the state has meant to the country.