FRANKFORT — Drexell R. Davis, a self-described “Yellow Dog” Democrat who held several statewide elective offices, died Tuesday night in the Frankfort home of his son, family members said. He was 88.
Davis was a “musical chairs” politician, a reference to officeholders who run for one statewide office and then another repeatedly. From 1891 to 1999, the state Constitution did not allow any holder of statewide office to succeed themselves for a second consecutive term.
Davis, Thelma Stovall and Frances Jones Mills were the best known musical chairs officeholders. Davis served two terms in the offices of treasurer and secretary of state.
Gov. Steve Beshear, in a statement, said Davis “was a fine public servant.”
“His true passion was working for the people of Kentucky, and our state is better for his years of dedication,” Beshear said.
Secretary of State Trey Grayson said in a statement that Kentucky “has lost a political icon.”
“Even today, we still have several employees who recall the important innovations that he brought to Kentucky government,” Grayson said.
Davis, a Shelby County native, won election as clerk of the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 1963 and held that partisan elective position until 1967.
Davis lost a bid for state treasurer in 1967 but captured that office in 1971. He was elected secretary of state in 1975 and treasurer again in 1979. His last elective office was secretary of state, which he won in 1983.
His son, Drexel R. Davis Jr. said Davis served 33 years in state government.
Davis also was known for his extensive collection of political campaign buttons. He donated many of them to the Kentucky Historical Society.
Besides his son, Davis is survived by a daughter, Ann L. Davis of Frankfort.
Rogers Funeral Home in Frankfort is handling arrangements. Visitation will be from 12 noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at Highland Christian Church in Frankfort and from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday at the funeral home. The funeral will be 11 a.m. Monday at the funeral home.
For more information about the life of Davis, visit the secretary of state’s history page at www.sos.ky.gov/secdesk/history.