DAVIDSON HISTORY

An Election Legend in Davidson’s History

by | Oct 25, 2017 | Davidson History

Davidsonian headline

In the November 1, 1928 issue of the Davidsonian, intrepid student reporters entertained their readers with an election account from earlier in the town and college’s history.

The short article ran as follows (with misspellings left in):

“The coming presidential election, the recent formation of a club to promote political interests here on the campus, and the general controversy that now prevails, have served to unearth interesting facts concerning a political situation that existed here a number of years ago, in which Davidson students played an important role.

As the story goes, the little village of Davidson was in the midst of the usual election for mayor, and all was going well until a number of voters decided to run a new candidate for this cherished office. The incumbent mayor had held office for a number of years and his decision to run again was gladly accepted, but when the new candidate, a man of much prominence, announced his intention to run, the situation became very interesting.

For several years students of the college had registered and had voted in the town elections, but no particular notice had been taken of it. However, not to be outdone, this small number of voters assembled their party and placed before the people of the town as their candidate a well known half-wit that roamed the streets and made his home in the barns of the neighborhood. Much fun was made of this move until it was revealed that the students had a majority and everything pointed to the election of their candidate. The situation was serious; the citizens of the village were very disturbed.

On the night before the election a big rally was scheduled, notifications were posted that the candidate would address the public in behalf of his own campaign, and a big landslide was apparent. The candidate, however, half from fear of a public speech and the other half from fear of loosing his personal liberty, beat it to the tall timber and remained several days. The election ran off smoothly the next day, but the people of the town had witnessed a real threat. An investigation was completed which pointed out the fact that the students had no lawful right to vote here, as this was not their residence.”

Fun story, but in looking back over town records and even previous student publications, no such election prank ever took place. Other documents do show actual election history.

Election signs at Town Hall in the 1980s. Well into the late 20th century, local candidates could learn to their dismay that Davidson voting etiquette precluded signs anywhere but town hall. Lawn signs simply were not done in Davidson. Population growth has changed the old pattern of everyone either knowing all the candidates or at least knowing someone who knew them.

This list of voters in the May 1894 town election includes at least four African-Americans. As Jim Crow laws came into practice, those voters lost their right to cast ballots.

 

 

Jan Blodgett

Jan Blodgett moved to Davidson in 1994. In 2017, she retired after 23 years as the Davidson College Archivist. Jan and former Davidson College history professor, Ralph Levering, are the co-authors of "One Town, Many Voices: A history of Davidson, North Carolina."