Name at birth: James Houston Davis
Jimmie Davis had an unusual dual career as a politician and a country music singer. A budding radio singer and guitarist throughout the 1930s, he recorded the popular hit "You Are My Sunshine" in 1940. The tune, later recorded by Bing Crosby, Gene Autry and many others, became Davis's signature hit and a country music standard. As he became a music star he continued to work at a series of government jobs, including the unlikely position of commissioner of public safety for Shreveport, Louisiana. The two careers came together in 1943, when Davis's musical fame helped get him elected governor of Louisiana. He served a single four-year term (1944-48) while continuing to perform, even playing himself in a 1947 movie about his life, Louisiana. He served as governor again from 1960-64, a term marked by struggles over civil rights and school desegregation. (During this term he also returned to the country music charts with the hit "Where the Old River Flows.") Davis lived to be 101, finally passing in 2000 and having become a beloved figure in Louisiana political history. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1972.
Early in his career Jimmie Davis listed his birth year as 1902, but later asserted that 1899 was the correct date… “You Are My Sunshine” was made Louisiana’s second state song in 1977, along with “Give Me Louisiana” by Doralice Fontane… Davis’s other hit tunes include “It Makes No Difference Now,” “There’s a New Moon Over My Shoulder” and “Nobody’s Darling But Mine.”