John A. G. Davis

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John Andrew Gardner Davis (March 5, 1802-November 14, 1840) was a law professor at the University of Virginia who was murdered there by a student.[1]

Davis attended the first session of the University of Virginia in 1825 and went on to practice law in Charlottesville until 1830[2] when he was elected professor of law at the University and moved to Pavilion X on the Lawn.[3]

Early life and family

Born in Middlesex County, Davis attended the College of William and Mary and then, after marrying a grandniece of Thomas Jefferson, the recently founded University of Virginia. In 1824, Davis moved to Albemarle County near the town of Charlottesville with his wife, Mary Jane Terrell where they established residence at The Farm and had 7 children, [4] the eldest being Eugene Davis. Davis established a law practice and helped found a newspaper. In his publications, Davis defended states’ rights and limited government, supporting nullification in 1832. In 1830 he joined the University of Virginia’s faculty as a professor of law.

Death

On November 12, 1840,[2] Professor Davis was shot by a rioting student, who was allegedly wearing a mask.[5] While a newspaper account at the time reported the wound was not mortal, he died two days later at the age 38. [6]

A popular but strict professor, he used his role as faculty chairman in 1836 to help expel about seventy student-militia members, leading to a riot. Four years later, on the anniversary of that riot, two students in masks shot off their weapons outside Davis’s residence, Pavilion X. When Davis confronted them, one of the students, Joseph G. Semmes, shot the professor. While a newspaper account at the time reported the wound was not mortal, Davis died on November 14th. John Andrew Gardner Davis was buried at the University Cemetery; the cemetery was later renamed the University of Virginia Cemetery and Columbarium.

Aftermath

University of Virginia student, Joseph G. Semmes was considered the shooter. He fled the state and later committed suicide. The death of Professor Davis helped finally to calm years of misbehavior among the university’s students. A story often repeated by UVA students has claimed that the tragic murder of Professor Davis sparked the creation of the UVA Honor Code two years later in 1842. but recent research has shown that to be apocryphal.[7][8]

References

  1. Web. The Farm: Historical Development, retrieved 25 July 2012.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Web. John A.G. Davis, Jean L. Cooper, Students of the University of Virginia, 1825-1874, retrieved 25 July 2012.
  3. Web. John Anthony Gardner Davis, Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, University of Virginia School of Law, retrieved 25 July 2012.
  4. Web. Who's Who in the Trices' World?, David Cary Burns, James K. "Jasper" Burns, 13 February 2000
  5. Web. Maybe UVa students need a new ethics, John Staige Davis IV, Daily Progress, Lee Enterprises, 25 May 2010, retrieved 25 July 2012.
  6. Web. Painful Occurrence., Richmond Enquirer, Volume 37, Number 58 (Richmond, Virginia)
  7. Web. Law School History, Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, University of Virginia School of Law, retrieved 25 July 2012.
  8. Web. The Evolution of Honor, Coy Barefoot, The University of Virginia Magazine, Spring 2008, retrieved 25 July 2012.