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Clifford Davis (November 18, 1897June 8, 1970) was a Democratic U.S. Representative from Tennesseemarker from 1940 to 1965.

Early life

Davis was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippimarker, moving to Memphismarker with his parents at age 14. There he completed the high school curriculum of the public school, and in 1917 he completed law school at the University of Mississippimarker. In 1918 he was admitted to the Tennessee bar.

Public service

In 1923, Davis became a city judge in Memphis, serving in this post until 1927. From 1928 until 1940, Davis served as vice mayor and Commissioner of Public Safety. He became a close associate of Memphis political "boss" E. H. Crump.

Congress

In 1940, the seat for the 10th Congressional District, which included Memphis, came open after three-term incumbent Clift Chandler was elected mayor of Memphis. Crump arranged for his colleague Davis to receive the Democratic nomination for the post. In those days, the Democratic nomination was tantamount to election in most of Tennessee (except for heavily Republican East Tennessee). Davis won the special election and took office on February 15, 1940. Davis was elected to a full term in November of that year and was reelected eleven times. His district was renumbered as the 9th District after Tennessee lost a district in the 1950 Census.

Crump died in 1954, but many of his supporters remained in office for years afterwards. In fact, Davis was re-elected five times after Crump's death. During this time, Davis served as chairman of the House Special Committee on Campaign Expenditures, a group which was charged with attempting to find a legal way to control the influence of money on politics and looked into the beginning of what became, many years later, became the system of campaign finance reform that started to be implemented after the Watergate scandal.

Davis was one of five Representatives shot on March 1, 1954, in the U.S. Capitol shooting incident when four Puerto Rican nationalists opened fire from the visitors' balcony into the chamber of the United States House of Representatives. Davis was shot in the leg, but was not seriously wounded.

Defeat

The Memphis area became much friendlier to Republicans in the 1960s, in part due to a massive crossover of white voters from the Democrats. As evidence of this growing influence, Davis barely held onto his seat in 1962, defeating his Republican challenger by only 1,200 votes. This was particularly shocking considering that he had been unopposed for reelection two years earlier.

In 1964, Davis lost the August Democratic primary to Shelby Countymarker legislator George W. Grider, a retired naval officer and fellow attorney. Unlike Davis, Grider had no past ties to the Crump machine. Davis did not return to Memphis full-time, but maintained a residence in Washington, D.C.marker where he resumed the practice of law until his death. He is buried at Forest Hill Cemetery in Memphis.

Legacy

The Clifford Davis Federal Building in Memphismarker was named after him.As of May 2, 2007, the "Clifford Davis Federal Building" is designated the "Clifford Davis and Odell Horton Federal Building."


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