Patriots of ’61 — George Davis, Attorney General of the Confederate States of America
Wilmingtonian, Senator, Attorney, Christian, Patriot.”
March 1st, 1820-February 23rd, 1896
“You shall bring your sons to this spot, tell them the story of his life, of his patriotism of his loyalty to high thinking and noble living, of his moderation in speech, his patience under defeat, of his devotion to your City and State as a perpetual illustration and an enduring example of the dignity, the worth of a high souled, pure hearted Christian gentleman.”  As you shall look on this statue, it shall be both a memorial and a lesson of the value of a citizenship which will preserve all that is good in the past, and inspire to patriotism and service in the future.”
…Judge H.G. Conner, at George Davis Statue Unveiling Ceremony, 20 April 1911 
George Davis was born on his father’s plantation, Porter’s Neck, in New Hanover County on 1 March, 1820.  He entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at age 14 and graduated valedictorian in 1838 at age 18.  He studied law in Wilmington and was admitted to the Bar Association at age 20, receiving his license to practice law the following year.  Mr. Davis married Mary Polk of Mecklenburg County in 1842 and their marriage was blessed with 4 children. He was known as a most thorough, painstaking and laborious lawyer, and in 1848 he became general counsel of the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad, a position he held for the remainder of his life. A staunch Unionist until Lincoln’s decision to violently coerce States, the North Carolina Legislature in early 1861 named George Davis as a delegate to the Washington Peace Conference which attempted to avert the coming fratricidal war. 
After three weeks and a lack of compromise between the sections, Davis returned to Wilmington convinced that the secession of the South was inevitable.  North Carolina seceded from the United States on 20 May 1861 and Davis found himself elected to a two-year term as a North Carolina Senator to the Provisional Confederate Congress.  During his term, Senator Davis was considered a strong supporter of the Jefferson Davis administration and advocate for North Carolina, though tragedy struck his home as his beloved wife Mary passed away.
President Davis appointed him Attorney General on 31 December 1863 (succeeding Thomas H. Watts) and he served in that Cabinet post until the end of the War Between the States and the dissolution of the Confederate government.  The defeat of the Confederacy brought his imprisonment at Fort Hamilton, New York until his parole in January, 1866.
Returning to Wilmington, he married Monimia Fairfax of Richmond to whom he had become engaged while Attorney General and from this union two children were born.  Davis resumed his law practice and became a popular and influential citizen who successfully pressed for State constitutional reforms in 1875.  He was also the only citizen of North Carolina ever to decline the Chief Judgeship of the State Supreme Court offered to him by Governor Zebulon B. Vance in 1878.  Davis continued to exercise great influence in North Carolina’s political life and enjoyed the affection and admiration of her citizens.
His last public address was a memorial of his former chief, President Jefferson Davis in December 1889, on which occasion he spoke without notes in Wilmington’s famous Thalian Hall Opera House. Already in feeble health, George Davis spoke of his fallen President being a "high-souled, true-hearted Christian gentleman, and if our poor humanity has any higher form than that, I know not what it is."  Davis ended his last oration with:
"My public life was long since over; my ambition went down with the banner of the South, and, like it, never rose again. I have had abundant time in all these quiet years, and it has been my favorite occupation to review the occurrences of that time, and recall over the history of that tremendous struggle; to remember with love and admiration the great men who bore their parts in its events.
I have often thought what was it that the Southern people had to be most proud of in all the proud things of their record?  Not the achievement of our arms!  No man is more proud of them than I, no man rejoices more in Manassas, Chancellorsville and in Richmond; but all the nations have had their victories. There is something, I think, better than that, and it was this, that through all the bitterness of that time, and throughout all the heat of that fierce contest, Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee never spoke a word, never wrote a line that the whole neutral world did not accept as the very indisputable truth. Aye, truth was the guiding star of both of them, and that is the grand thing to remember; upon that my memory rests more proudly than upon anything else. It is a monument better than marble, more durable than brass. Teach it to your children, that they may be proud to remember Jefferson Davis."
George Davis passed quietly from this life at the age of 76 and was laid to rest in Wilmington’s Oakdale Cemetery.  Attesting to the depth of feeling toward him is the bronze statue erected by the Cape Fear Chapter Number 3, United Daughters of the Confederacy on April 20th, 1911, located at the intersection of Market and 3rd Streets.  During World War II the Liberty ship SS George Davis, was named in his honor.
In his "Memoirs of An Octogenarian," John D. Bellamy noted that Davis "had no toleration for new ideas. He did not believe in popular education—it was a heresy with him. He was a Cavalier, not a Puritan. On one occasion he said to me:
"This thing you boys are advocating, called progress, and the introduction of new notions is wrong; it is but a synonym for graft and rascality."
He despised hypocrisy and hated demagoguery. He was a great stickler for decorum. On one occasion, seeing a young lawyer with his feet elevated and resting on a table in the presence of the court and jury, Mr. Davis came by and tapping the young man gently on the shoulder, said to him: "Young man, no gentleman will put his feet on the table in the presence of the court and jury."
When informed of the death of George Davis, Mrs. Varina Davis (wife of the President) wrote that George Davis was "one of the most exquisitely proportioned of men. His mind dominated his body, but his heart drew him near to all that was honorable and tender, as well as patriotic and faithful, in mankind. He was never dismayed by defeat, but never protested. When the enemy was at the gates of Richmond he was fully sensible of our peril, but calm in the hope of repelling them, and if this failed, certain of the power and will to endure whatever ills had been reserved for him.
His literary tastes were diverse and catholic, and his anxious mind found relaxation studying the literary confidences of others in a greater degree than I have ever known in any other public man except Mr. Benjamin. My husband felt for him the most sincere friendship as well as confidence and esteem, and I think there was never a shadow intervened between them. I mourn with you over our loss, which none who knew him can doubt was his gain."
Source:  Cape Fear Historical Institute,

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