For a period of thirty-five years the Hon. Frank Fenner Davis, of Chepachet, Rhode Island, has been active in the public life of his town and State. In thus giving his career to the service of the people and the advancement of the public welfare, he has achieved a notable record of success, and the positive value of his achievements have added much to the progress of the State.
Mr. Davis was born at Glocester, Rhode Island, on January 1, 1873, a son of Gilbert H. and Abigail Alverson (Briggs) Davis. He is a descendant of the ancient and eminent Fenner family which gave two governors to the State, Arthur Fenner (1797-1806), and James Fenner (1807-11), (1824-31). In each generation members of this family have been prominent in Rhode Island life. Dexter Davis, the paternal grandfather, was also a man of prominence in Rhode Island affairs, and his wife, Rebecca (Cook) Davis, traced descent from one of that little band who came to Plymouth on the “Mayflower.” The maternal family, Briggs, has long been established in New England. Gilbert H. Davis, the father of Frank Fenner Davis, was a tinsmith by occupation.
Frank Fenner Davis, of this record, was educated in the public schools of his birthplace, and at the early age of thirteen began to make his own way in the world. He first entered the employ of Walter A. Read, a merchant of Chepachet, who also served as general treasurer of the State of Rhode Island from 1898 until his death in 1918. Mr. Davis remained in this position for twelve years, until he reached the age of twenty-five. For two and a half years thereafter he was employed by Oscar H. White as bookkeeper in his woolen mills, and at the end of this time withdrew from business to devote himself entirely to the service of the public. Always interested in governmental affairs and politics, Mr. Davis was elected to his first public office in 1894, when he was barely twenty-one years of age. At that time he was chosen treasurer of the town of Glocester, and until 1912, with the exception of two years, held the office through successive reelections. In 1895, in addition to this office, he was elected collector of taxes, serving in that capacity until 1907. In 1904, was also elected a justice of the peace. From 1901 until 1912, he was town clerk. In 1918 he was elected a member of the school committee of the town of Glocester, and immediately afterwards was chosen its chairman.
Mr. Davis served with distinction as president of the town council from 1920 to 1923, and is at the present time town solicitor of Glocester and also town solicitor of Foster, having been admitted to the Rhode Island bar in 1924. From 1906 until 1914, inclusive, he represented Glocester in the Rhode Island Assembly, and was elected speaker of the House of Representatives in 1913 and 1914. Mr. Davis is a member and secretary of the Board of Tax Commissioners of the State of Rhode Island, having been appointed in 1912, serving continuously since that time, one of the oldest State officers in continuous service.
For many years Mr. Davis has exercised an important influence in the public and party councils of Rhode Island. In the House of Representatives his service, other than that of Speaker, has been in valued committee work. In 1907 he served on the Committee of Special Legislation; from 1908 to 1912 was a member of the Finance Committee, of which he was chairman from 1910 to 1912; and in the latter year was also a member of the joint committee on accounts and claims. As chairman of the committee on finance which had charge of all measures relating to State appropriation and revenue, he filled a very important position and filled it very well. Prior to his election as speaker of the House, he served two terms as deputy speaker, 1911-12. In 1912, Mr. Davis was appointed a member and became chairman of the commission that erected and dedicated the tablet commemorating the Dorr War. In the Legislature he was one of the active workers for the public interest. “He is a skilled parliamentarian,” to quote the Providence County “Times,” “and as presiding officer won high encomiums from both parties for his unfailing courtesy, fairness and just rulings.”
He has given his hearty support to all movements whether civic or benevolent in the public interest. During the period of the World War, Mr. Davis was a member of the Legal Advisory Board of Glocester in selective service, and chairman of the district comprising the towns of Glocester, Smithfield, Scituate and Foster, in the four Liberty Loan drives of 1917-18.
“This record of continuous and overlapping continuance in important offices from the age of twenty-one is one rarely equalled,” writes the Providence County “Times” of April 26, 1929, “and stamps Mr. Davis as a man holding the respect and confidence of his community to an unusual degree. He is public spirited and progressive, bringing to every duty a zest and zeal remarkable, the spirit and strength which impels him being daily renewed in healthy recreations of the out of doors.” In 1931 he was made a member of the commission appointed to draft and report on revision of laws relating to collection of taxes, of which body he is chairman.
Fraternally Mr. Davis is affiliated with the Free and Accepted Masons, and Past Master of Friendship Lodge, No. 7, at Chepachet. He is also Past Grand Patron of the Grand Chapter of the Order of Eastern Star of Rhode Island. A member of the Putnam Country Club and of the Glocester Country Club. With other members of his family he attends the Congregational Church.
On August 1, 1894, at New Bedford, Massachusetts, Frank Fenner Davis married Mary Chace, daughter of George W. and Mary A. (Harris) Chace. They are the parents of one daughter, Edith Chace, born on July 15, 1896.
Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.