Elmer Davis

Elmer Davis (January 13, 1890 – May 18, 1958) was a news reporter, author, the Director of the United States Office of War Information during World War II and a Peabody Award recipient.

Elmer Davis
Elmer davis
Elmer Davis
BornJanuary 13, 1890
DiedMay 18, 1958 (aged 68)
OccupationDirector, Office of War Information, World War II

Early life and career

Davis was born in Aurora, Indiana, the son of a cashier for the First National Bank of Aurora. One of his first professional writing jobs was with the Indianapolis Star, a position he held while attending Franklin College. A brilliant student, Davis received a Rhodes Scholarship to Queen's College, Oxford in 1910. His stay in England was cut short when his father fell ill and eventually died. Davis met his wife, Florence, in England.

Upon his return to America, Davis became an editor for the pulp magazine Adventure, leaving after a year to work as a reporter and editorial writer for The New York Times. For the next decade, Davis reported on stories ranging from pugilist Jack Dempsey to evangelist Billy Sunday. It was his coverage of Billy Sunday that gained him notoriety. Davis later left The New York Times and became a freelance writer.

Davis' best-known work is his company history History of the New York Times. 1851–1921 (New York: The New York Times, 1921).

In 1928 Davis published his one and only novel Giant Killer, a retelling of the Biblical story of David.


In August 1939, Paul White, the news chief at CBS, asked Davis to fill in as a news analyst for H. V. Kaltenborn, who was off in Europe reporting on the increasingly hostile events. Davis became an instant success. Edward R. Murrow later commented that one reason he believed that Davis was likeable was his Hoosier accent, which reminded people of a friendly neighbor. By 1941, the audience for Davis' nightly five-minute newscast and comment was 12.5 million.

On June 1, 1941, Colgate-Palmolive-Peet began sponsoring seven-days-a-week newscasts by Davis on CBS. The program was carried on 95 stations from 8:55 to 9 p.m., Eastern Time.[1]

Office of War Information

Davis spent two and a half years reporting the news on radio and gaining the trust of the nation. Then, in 1941, his colleagues persuaded President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to appoint Davis director of the newly created United States Office of War Information, a sprawling organization with over 3,000 employees. Even though Davis was being paid $53,000 per year from CBS, he left the network to work in government during the crisis of World War II.

As Director of the Office of War Information, Davis recommended to President Roosevelt that Japanese-Americans be permitted to enlist for service in the Army and Navy and urged him to oppose bills in Congress that would deprive Nisei of citizenship and intern them during the war. He argued that Japanese propaganda proclaiming it a racial war could be combated by deeds that counteracted this.[2] Davis has been termed one of the "unsung forefathers" of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, an all-Nisei combat unit in the war.[3]

Davis was also instrumental in loosening censorship rules that forbade the publication of images of dead GIs on the battlefield. Until late 1943, the U.S. Office of Censorship only permitted the media to publish images of blanket-covered bodies and flag-draped coffins of dead U.S. soldiers,[4] partly for fear that Americans would be demoralized if they had any graphic understanding of the human price being paid in the war.[5] The government also restricted what reporters could write, and coverage was generally upbeat and bloodless.[6]

Davis believed that the American public "had a right to be truthfully informed" about the war within the dictates of military security. He asked President Roosevelt to lift the ban on publishing photographs of dead GIs on the battlefield on the grounds that the American people needed to appreciate the sacrifices made by their young men.[7] Roosevelt agreed. Life published a photograph taken by George Strock of three American soldiers who were killed on the beach during the Battle of Buna-Gona, the first photograph published that depicted American soldiers dead on the battlefield.[8] Censorship was loosened, but the media was still forbidden from showing the faces of the dead or the insignia of the units they belonged to.[9]

Postwar career

Following the war, Davis continued his career in radio, using the platform to criticize Senator Joseph McCarthy for his anti-communist investigations.[10]

Davis was one of the four journalists who portrayed themselves in the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still, and he was the host and narrator of the ABC television series, Pulitzer Prize Playhouse (1950–52), which won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series.

He was a longstanding member of The Baker Street Irregulars, the literary society dedicated to keeping green the memory of Sherlock Holmes.

On June 29, 1952, the Washington Post published a two-page essay by Davis, which he opened by questioning "how long will these former Communists and former sympathizers abuse the patience of the vast majority which had sense enough never to be Communists in the first place?" He cited their "arrogance" as the most "irritating thing" about them. he specifically mentioned Whittaker Chambers, who at that time were testifying before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee.[11]

Davis retired from broadcasting in 1953 after suffering a heart attack.

Personal life and death

Davis died in May 1958 of complications from a stroke.[12]


Davis was considered to be one of the greatest news reporters of the mid-20th century, on a level with Edward R. Murrow. Among the many awards Davis received were three Peabody Awards, including an award during its inaugural year. Foreign governments also recognized Davis when he was inducted into the Dutch Order of Orange-Nassau and the Czechoslovak Order of the White Lion, among others.

In 1946, Davis received the Alfred I. duPont Award.[13]


  1. ^ "Elmer Davis for C-P-P" (PDF). Broadcasting. March 31, 1941. p. 9. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
  2. ^ John Toland, The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire 1936–1945 p 453 Random House New York 1970
  3. ^ Japanese American Voice Archived 2007-06-27 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ John Whiteclay Chambers, ed. (2006). The Oxford Companion to American Military History (first ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 916. ISBN 978-0195071986.
  5. ^ Dunlap, David W. (28 March 2013). "Photo That Was Hard to Get Published, but Even Harder to Get". Time. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  6. ^ Sweeney, Michael S. "Appointment at Hill 1205". Texas Military Forces Museum. Retrieved 23 October 2013.
  7. ^ Miller, Donald L. (2008). D-Days in the Pacific. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781439128817.
  8. ^ "Three Americans". LIFE. 21 September 1943. pp. 34–35. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  9. ^ Persico, Joseph E. Roosevelt's Centurions FDR and the Commanders He Led to Victory in World War II (First ed.). New York: Random House. p. 353. ISBN 978-0-679-64543-6.
  10. ^ Jim Widner's Radio Days
  11. ^ Davis, Elmer (29 June 1952). "Double-Thinking Ex-Commies Are Boring". pp. B1–B3.
  12. ^ https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1314&dat=19580519&id=-S9WAAAAIBAJ&sjid=GOcDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2861,983544&hl=en
  13. ^ All duPont–Columbia Award Winners Archived August 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Columbia Journalism School. Retrieved 2013-08-06.
  • Nimmo, Dan D.; Chevelle Newsome (1997). Political Commentators in the United States in the 20th Century: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. pp. 81–91. ISBN 0-313-29585-9.

External links

1958 in radio

The year 1958 saw a number of significant events in radio broadcasting history.

Americans for Democratic Action

Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) (1947-present) is a liberal American political organization advocating progressive policies. ADA works for social and economic justice through lobbying, grassroots organizing, research, and supporting progressive candidates.

Elihu Davis

Elihu James Davis (December 2, 1851 – June 18, 1936) was an Ontario businessman and political figure. He represented York North in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario as a Liberal member from 1888 to 1904.He was born in York Township, Canada West in 1851, the son of Andrew Davis, and entered business with his father who owned a tannery in King Township. In 1874, he married Maggie Johnston. Children of this union were five sons: Elmer Davis, Harold Davis, Aubrey Davis, Andrew Davis and Elihu James Davis Jr. and two daughters Mabel Davis and Edith Davis [wife of Alfred Webb]. Davis served on the council for King Township and was reeve from 1883 to 1886. He also served as warden for York County in 1884. In the same year, his father retired and Davis took ownership of the business. He was first elected to the legislative assembly in 1888 after the resignation of Joseph Widdifield. Davis was Provincial Secretary and Registrar of Ontario from 1896 to 1899 and Commissioner of Crown Lands from 1899 to 1904.

His grandsons Donald George Davis and Murray Edward Davis went on to careers in the theatre. Both are the sons of Elihu James Davis Jr.

He died at Wellesley Hospital in Toronto, and was interred in the Newmarket Cemetery in Newmarket.

Elmer Davis Lake

Elmer Davis Lake is a 149-acre (0.60 km2) reservoir in Owen County, Kentucky. It was created in 1958 by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, and was named for a former commissioner of that department.

Friends of Mr. Sweeney

Friends of Mr. Sweeney is a 1934 American comedy film directed by Edward Ludwig and written by Warren B. Duff, Sid Sutherland, F. Hugh Herbert and Erwin S. Gelsey. It is based on the 1925 novel Friends of Mr. Sweeney by Elmer Davis. The film stars Charlie Ruggles, Ann Dvorak, Eugene Pallette, Robert Barrat, Berton Churchill and Dorothy Burgess. The film was released by Warner Bros. on July 28, 1934.

George Strock

George Strock was a photojournalist during World War II when he took a picture of three American soldiers who were killed during the Battle of Buna-Gona on the Buna beach. It became the first photograph to depict dead American troops on the battlefield to be published during World War II. Life correspondent Cal Whipple went all the way to the White House to get permission to print the image.

Strock got his start as a photographer while attending the John C. Fremont High School in Los Angeles. He studied photojournalism in a "groundbreaking course" taught by Clarence A. Bach. After high school, Strock photographed Hollywood celebrities, crime and sports for the Los Angeles Times before joining Life magazine in 1940.

I'll Show You the Town

I'll Show You the Town is a 1925 American comedy film directed by Harry A. Pollard and written by Raymond L. Schrock and Harvey F. Thew. It is based on the 1924 novel I'll Show You the Town by Elmer Davis. The film stars Reginald Denny, Marian Nixon, Edward Kimball, Lilyan Tashman, Hayden Stevenson and Cissy Fitzgerald. The film was released on June 7, 1925, by Universal Pictures.

I Cover the War!

I Cover the War is a 1937 American drama action film directed by Arthur Lubin and starring John Wayne.

List of Peabody Award winners (1940–1949)

Peabody Award winners and honorable mentions.

List of lakes in Kentucky

The following is a list of lakes and reservoirs in the state of Kentucky in the United States.

Lake Barkley (extends into Tennessee)

Barren River Lake

Beaver Lake

Boltz Lake

Buckhorn Lake

Bullock Pen Lake

Lake Beshear

Cannon Creek Lake

Lake Carnico

Carr Creek Lake (formerly Carr Fork Lake)

Cave Run Lake

Cedar Creek Lake

Cranks Creek Lake

Lake Cumberland

Dale Hollow Lake (extends into Tennessee)

Dewey Lake

Doe Run Lake

Elk Lake

Elmer Davis Lake

Fishtrap Lake

Grayson Lake

Green River Lake

Greenbo Lake

Guist Creek Lake

Herrington Lake

Kentucky Lake (extends into Tennessee).

Kincaid Lake

Laurel River Lake

Lake Linville

Lake Malone

Martins Fork Lake

Nolin River Lake

Paintsville Lake

Pan Bowl Lake

Rough River Lake

Shanty Hollow Lake

Shelby Lake

Swan Lake

Taylorsville Lake

Wilgreen Lake

Williamstown Lake

Willisburg Lake

Wood Creek Lake

Yatesville Lake

My American Wife (1936 film)

My American Wife is a 1936 American comedy film directed by Harold Young and written by Elmer Davis, Edith Fitzgerald and Virginia Van Upp. The film stars Francis Lederer, Ann Sothern, Fred Stone, Billie Burke, Ernest Cossart and Grant Mitchell. The film was released on August 7, 1936, by Paramount Pictures.

Pulitzer Prize Playhouse

The Pulitzer Prize Playhouse is an American television anthology drama series which offered adaptations of Pulitzer Prize winning plays, stories and novels. The distinguished journalist Elmer Davis was the host and narrator of this 1950-52 ABC series.

Sponsored by Milwaukee's Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company, the 60-minute show opened with theme music by Bernard Green. Columbia University's Pulitzer School of Journalism, which made the annual Pulitzer awards, benefited from its agreement with Schlitz and ABC, receiving $100,000 from Schlitz for its cooperation. However, the show made no mention of Columbia or the Pulitzer School of Journalism.

Roger Burlingame

William Roger Burlingame (1889–1967) was a prolific author, writer, and biographer. Burlingame served as the book editor at Scribner's Magazine (1914–1926). After leaving his job at Scribner's, Burlingame authored 25 books, including biographies and works of historical non-fiction. He also wrote for The New York Times Magazine and The New York Times Book Review.

Society of Red Tape Cutters

The Society of Red Tape Cutters was a series of small articles published by newspapers during World War II to give recognition to military and political figures for keeping bureaucracy from hindering the war effort. Each announcement included a boilerplate "certificate" illustrated by Dr. Seuss and a synopsis of the inductee's actions.

The Baker Street Irregulars

The Baker Street Irregulars is an organization of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts founded in 1934 by Christopher Morley. The nonprofit organization currently numbers some 300 individuals worldwide. The group has published The Baker Street Journal — an "irregular quarterly of Sherlockiana" — since 1946.

The Golden Twenties

The Golden Twenties is a 1950 American documentary film, which used footage from the March of Time newsreels. It is the only film credited to Time Inc., although their newsreel division, the March of Time, produced four films, and this film was produced by the March of Time producer, Richard de Rochemont. While composed of existing footage, the film was narrated by five different people: Frederick Lewis Allen, Robert Q. Lewis, Allen Prescott, Red Barber, and Elmer Davis.

Times Have Changed

Times Have Changed is a 1923 American silent comedy drama film directed by James Flood and starring William Russell, Mabel Julienne Scott and Charles West.

United States Office of War Information

The United States Office of War Information (OWI) was a United States government agency created during World War II. OWI operated from June 1942 until September 1945. Through radio broadcasts, newspapers, posters, photographs, films and other forms of media, the OWI was the connection between the battlefront and civilian communities. The office also established several overseas branches, which launched a large-scale information and propaganda campaign abroad.

White Pants Willie

White Pants Willie is a 1927 American comedy film directed by Charles Hines and written by Howard J. Green. It is based on the 1924 novel White Pants Willie by Elmer Davis. The film stars Johnny Hines, Leila Hyams, Henry A. Barrows, Ruth Dwyer, Walter Long and Margaret Seddon. The film was released on July 24, 1927, by First National Pictures.

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