C. Girard Davidson papers , 1934-1980

Overview of the Collection

Davidson, C. Girard (Crowe Girard), 1910-
C. Girard Davidson papers
1934-1980 (inclusive)
153 linear feet, (102 containers)
Collection Number
Coll 162
The C. Girard Davidson Papers document the career of attorney, politician, and businessman Crow Girard "Jebby" Davidson (1910-1996). The collection is organized into major series concerning government projects, legal cases, political activities, and business interests. The majority of material related to Davidson's service as Assistant Secretary of the Interior (1946-1950) is housed in the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time. Collection includes sound recordings, moving images, and digital files to which access is restricted. Access to these materials is governed by repository policy and may require the production of listening or viewing copies. Researchers requiring access must notify Special Collections and University Archives in advance and pay fees for reproduction services as necessary.

Additional Reference Guides

See the Current Collection Guide for detailed description and requesting options.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Attorney, politician, and businessman, Crow Girard "Jebby" Davidson was born July 28, 1910 in Lafayette, Louisiana. He received his B.A. from Southwestern Louisiana Institute (1930), LL.B. from Tulane University (1933), and D.J.S. from Yale University Law School (1936). Davidson was a member of the bar in five states: Louisiana, Tennessee, Oregon, District of Columbia, and Alaska. He was married to Mercedes Hester (1939-1952), Joan Kaplan (1953-1967), and Sylvia Nemer (1967-until his death in 1996), and was the father of six children and two step-children.

After the completion of his law degree, Davidson served as attorney for the Tennessee Valley Authority, 1934-1937. Following his resignation, he went into private practice with his brother in Lafayette, Louisiana where he organized all of the REA Electric Cooperatives in that state. His job as consultant to the Bonneville Power Administration, 1940-1946, took him to Portland, Oregon. While there, Davidson shuttled to Washington, D.C. to serve as Assistant General Counsel of the War Production Board, 1944-1945. He remained in government service in the position of Assistant Secretary of the Interior under President Truman, 1946-1950.

Subsequent to his resignation as Assistant Secretary of the Interior, Davidson returned to private law practice in Portland, Oregon as a partner in the law firm of Davidson, Hart and Veasie, and became involved in several major legal cases. The first was a fight against the powerful aluminum companies, in which Davidson represented Leo Harvey of Harvey Machine Company who was seeking a $46 million loan from the government to build an aluminum plant in Montana. He also took on the Idaho Power Company as counsel for the National Hell's Canyon Association in its battle for a high dam rather than a series of low dams. In 1967, Davidson confronted Consolidated Edison of New York when he was hired as consultant by that city to investigate high rates and poor service. Another major case was the Sierra Club legal action against U.S. Plywood-Champion Papers, a company that wanted to construct a pulp plant in southeast Alaska. Davidson represented the latter in the court case which, after numerous delays, was rendered moot.

In the 1950s, Davidson became active in the Democratic Party. He served as National Democratic Elector in 1952, and was twice elected, in 1956 and 1960, as Democratic National Committeeman of Oregon by popular vote in state-wide elections. Between 1960 and 1963 Davidson was Chairman of the Advisory Council on National Resources of the Democratic National Committee as well as a member of the Executive Committee. Concurrently, he served as Chairman of the Western States Democratic Conference.

Davidson's wife, Sylvia Nemer Davidson, was also active in Oregon's civic and political affairs. She was Co-Chairman of the Adlai Stevenson's Oregon Presidential Campaign and played a prominent part in John F. Kennedy's primary campaign in that state. In 1972, the Davidsons ran as a husband/wife team for delegates pledged to Edmund Muskie to the Democratic National Convention. Their campaign was unsuccessful, but they did attend the convention as members of the '72 Sponsors Club. Between 1972 and 1977, Davidson was once again active in civic affairs when he was appointed to the Oregon Educational Coordinating Council, later Commission, by the Governor.

Davidson resigned as Democratic National Committeeman in 1963 so that he could attend to his business interests in Alaska. Davidson was primarily involved in lumber and construction companies. Many of his business endeavors were financed by the Jemkap Company, headed by J.M. Kaplan, Davidson's father-in-law. A partnership between Davidson and Jemkap, Frontiers- Oregon, Ltd., invested in several other firms in which Davidson had a controlling interest.

C. Girard Davidson died on Friday, September 20, 1996, at his home in Portland, Oregon. He was 86. He was survived by his wife and six children.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The C. Girard Davidson Papers document the career of this public official. The collection is arranged according to activity, including the major series of government projects, legal cases, political activities, and business interests. There are also biographical materials, daily diaries, correspondence, speeches, subject files, and some personal material. One box of photographs has been removed to the Photograph Collection and is available on request. The researcher should also be aware that the majority of material relating to Davidson's service as Assistant Secretary of the Interior (1946-1950) is housed in the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri.

The Government Project series contains the files of projects for which Davidson was the consulting attorney. These projects include: Tennessee Valley Authority (1934-1937); U.S. Housing Authority (September 1939-September 1940); and Bonneville Power Administration (1940-1946). Davidson was consultant to BPA beginning September 1940, in an attempt to buy out Puget Sound Power and Light Company. In April 1941, he was promoted to Assistant General Counsel and between 1943 and 1946 he served as General Counsel. While living in Portland, Davidson also served as counsel to the War Production Board (1944-1945); and as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for the U.S. Department of the Interior (June 18, 1946-1950). Most of the material covering this period is in the Truman Library. The Oregon Educational Coordinating Commission was created by legislation in 1975, Davidson served as chairman from June, 1975-September, 1977. This commission served to coordinate community colleges and four-year institutions.

The Legal Cases series reflects Davidson's work as a consultant to many large corporations and several utility companies. In 1967 he was hired by New York City Council on Consumer Affairs, during Mayor John Lindsay's term, to investigate the rates and services of Consolidated Edison. He acted as attorney for Harvey Machine Company of Kalispell, Montana. This was an unsuccessful effort to obtain a $46 million loan to build an aluminum plant (1950-1952). These files reflect the influence that was exerted by some large corporations in trying to maintain their monopoly in the aluminum field. The National Hells Canyon Association hired him as counsel in their battle to convince citizens and legislators that a high Hells Canyon dam was preferable to a series of lower dams proposed by the Idaho Power Company (1953-1963). Davidson served as company liaison for U.S. Plywood-Champion Papers Inc. In 1968, U.S. Plywood Champion Papers was awarded the sale of 8.75 billion board feet of timber in the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska. When the company decided to build a pulp mill, it arranged for the services and advice of a team of seven ecologists and environmentalists. Davidson served with the ecology team. He also represented the paper company in a suit filed against them by the Sierra Club (1970). The purpose of the suit was to void the timber sale and prevent construction of the pulp and paper mill at Berners Bay near Juneau. The decision of the Federal District Court of Alaska has become a landmark case and is used in a number of law schools and textbooks as a leading case in environmental law. The Alaska court ruled in favor of the U.S. Forest Service and Champion Papers. The Sierra Club appealed the decision but in pendency of litigation (4 years) the cost of construction escalated to the point that the project was no longer feasible. On August 20, 1976, the case was dismissed "upon the ground that it had been rendered moot."

Davidson was highly active in the political arena that included Oregon and the nation. Correspondence files in the Political Activities series include Frank Church, Hubert Humphrey, John F. Kennedy, Wayne Morse, Richard L. Neuberger, Charles O. Porter, and Adlai Stevenson. His activities include his work with the Western States Democratic Conference, Democratic National Committee, and the Advisory Council on Natural Resources of the Democratic National Committee.

The Business Interests series includes folders on the Alaska Pacific Lumber Company that was founded by Davidson in 1957. This was the first modern sawmill and chipping plant in the state, located in Wrangell, Alaska. He sold the company to the Puget Sound Plywood Company in 1967. That company, in turn, sold the operation to the Wrangell Lumber Company, a Japanese firm. Other timber business interests include: Pacific Northern Lumber Company for the construction of the sawmill in Wrangell, Alaska, 1959; Seversky-Electronatom, a company that developed basic patents, designs, and concepts for the creation of a commercially feasible device to eliminate particulate and gaseous emissions caused by incineration and other forms of combustion or Hydro-Precipitrol; Western Forest Products, Inc.; and The Pacific Northern Timber Company. Construction and development interests include: Frontiers Construction Company, Idaho Falls, Idaho, Frontiers - Oregon, Ltd., Georgia-Pacific Alaska, Schenk Construction Company, Townhouse, Inc., Western Land Development Company, and Wrangell Development Company. Other business interests also includes Portland Television, Inc. and J.M. Kaplan. Kaplan, owner and President of Welch Grape Juice Company was Davidson's father-in-law. The Jemkap Company provided loans to Davidson in his numerous business endeavors.

In Davidson's Personal Material series there is a box of audio tapes featuring the appearance of John F. Kennedy on the "Youth Speaks" program on KORE radio, Eugene, OR, May 19 and 20, 1958; and the appearance of Hubert Humphrey on the same program on April 26, 1959. There is also a 16mm silent film "Raven Balloon." There is a defendant exhibit label on the film canister, but the subject is unknown; and so is the legal case. Finally, there is a box of annotated address cards that appear to list Davidson's business and political contacts. Annotations include the relation to Davidson and some personal comments.

Where applicable, the folder-by-folder inventory maintains file folder titles used by Davidson. Most of the political material had been received as a gift in 1966, and was cataloged as collection AX 208. It has now been incorporated into this more comprehensive collection.

Photographs are included.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Business enterprises--Alaska
  • Business enterprises--Oregon
  • Conservation of natural resources
  • Construction industry--Northwest, Pacific
  • Electric utilities--Government ownership
  • Lawyers--Correspondence
  • Lumber trade
  • Motion pictures
  • Oral history
  • Political campaigns
  • Rural electrification--Louisiana

Personal Names

  • Bessey, Roy F. (Roy Frederic), 1889-1980
  • Bowles, Chester, 1901-1986
  • Davidson, C. Girard (Crowe Girard), 1910-
  • Davidson, Sylvia Nemer
  • Douglas, William O. (William Orville), 1898-1980
  • Green, Edith, 1910-1987
  • Humphrey, Hubert H. (Hubert Horatio), 1911-1978
  • Kaplan, J. M. (Jacob Merrill), 1892-
  • Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
  • Morse, Wayne L. (Wayne Lyman), 1900-1974
  • Neuberger, Richard L. (Richard Lewis), 1912-1960
  • Porter, Charles Orlando, 1919-2006
  • Stevenson, Adlai E. (Adlai Ewing), 1900-1965
  • Sweetland, Monroe, 1910-2006
  • Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972

Corporate Names

  • Democratic National Committee (U.S.)
  • Oregon Educational Coordinating Commission
  • Tennessee Valley Authority
  • United States. Bonneville Power Administration
  • United States. War Production Board
  • Western States Democratic Conference

Geographical Names

  • Hells Canyon Dam (Idaho and Or.)
  • Oregon--Politics and government

Form or Genre Terms

  • Photographic prints
  • Sound recordings