William H. Davis - (November 27, 1848 – March 24, 1938) was an American educator and school administrator in the U.S. state of West Virginia. Davis was the first teacher of Booker T. Washington, and the first and only African American candidate for West Virginia governor in 1888.
Davis was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1848. He was educated in Ohio public schools in Columbus and Chillicothe and enlisted in the 7th Independent Company of the Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, known as the Union Light Guard, in the Union Army. Davis' unit was a cavalry regiment that guarded President Abraham Lincoln, and was stationed in Washington, D.C. during the American Civil War. He was honorably discharged in 1865 following surgery due to an infection of the mastoid part of his temporal bone. Following the war, he operated a steamboat between Gallipolis, Charleston, and Brownstown (present-day Marmet), and in September 1865, he began boarding with Reverend Lewis Rice in the Tinkersville section of Malden.
Rice hired Davis as a schoolteacher at the privately-run Tinkersville school, with the classes first held in Rice's home. Davis was the first teacher of Booker T. Washington at the Tinkersville school. In 1871, Davis was hired to serve as principal of Charleston's African American schools. Davis served as principal of the graded school for a total of 24 years and served as a teacher in the schools for a total of 47 years (including his 24 years as principal). He retired from teaching in 1913.
In 1888, the Colored Independent Party nominated Davis as the party's gubernatorial candidate in the 1888 elections. The party organized in opposition to the Republican Party because of its refusal to recognize West Virginia's 11,000 African American voters and advocated for an end to school segregation. Davis became the first African American nominated as a candidate for West Virginia governor, and the only African American candidate for governor to date. When Booker T. Washington was honored at a 1937 Tuskegee University anniversary celebration, Davis was invited and attended as a guest of honor. At the time of his death in 1938, Davis was one of two remaining Grand Army of the Republic members in the Charleston area.
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