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John Davis Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS-338

Content Description

The John Davis Papers are divided into six subseries: Administrative Records, Artifacts, Audio/Visual Materials, Events, Personal Files, and Publications.

Administrative Records comprise of correspondence (1952 – 1974), as well as legal documentation such as the Toledo Edison Articles of Incorporation (1973) and their Code of Regulations (1973). The Administrative Records also contain the Board of Directors Acceptance (1974) for John K. Davis’ resignation and his last report to the Board of Directors (1974).

Artifacts contain physical objects relevant to the achievements of John K. Davis in the Energy and Public Utilities Industry. Some artifacts pertain to the operation of the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant. The series also possess USSR currency and various pins collected between his trips to Russia in 1963 and 1966.

Audio/Visual materials contain material related to John K. Davis’ employment at Toledo Edison from 1946 to 1972. Photos from 1966 highlight John’s commitment to the Northwest Ohio community. In 1968, John K. Davis toured the Rosemary Coal Mine which would suggest the extent of Toledo Edison’s successful cooperation amongst other companies in the energy industry. In 1963, John K. Davis and a host of Toledo Edison employees visited the Soviet Union with the express purpose of good will and a shared collaboration in the development of the electric utility industry. The trip was led by John K. Davis’ friend and contemporary Walker Lee Cisler, who was a noted American Engineer and founder of the National Academy of Engineering. Mr. Davis thoroughly documented the trip.

Events contains handouts from various events and speeches; most notably being his farewell address prior to his retirement from Toledo Edison, “A Few Parting Words” (1974).

Personal Files comprise of private correspondence from institutions such as VMI, while employed at the East Tennessee Light and Power Company (1940 – 1941) and Toledo Edison (1966 – 1974). A multitude of his personal correspondence stems from letters of congratulations after his promotion to president of Toledo Edison (1959). Amongst these congratulatory letters include then president of The University of Toledo, William S. Carlson. These files contain certificates and proclamations awarded to John K. Davis as well, along with registration for the Ohio National Guard (1949 – 1953) and an Ohio Professional Engineers & Surveyors application (1950).

Publications include hardbound copies of the Toledo Edison News (1945 – 1974) and news clippings from The Toledo Blade (1950 – 1975). Also included in this series are pamphlets, brochures and Aeroflot information written in Russian received during John K. Davis’ USSR trips (1960 – 1971).


  • Creation: 1929-1977

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials may be accessed by request at the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections on the fifth floor of the William S. Carlson Library on the main campus of the University of Toledo. Materials do not circulate.

Conditions Governing Use

In most cases, the Canaday Center does not own the copyright and literary rights to items in its collections; it is the responsibility of the researcher to adhere to U.S. Copyright and Fair Use laws, including seeking permission from the copyright holder and payment of any royalty fees, in the reproduction and use of archival materials.

Providing copies or scans does not constitute a license to publish or reproduce images in print or electronic form.

Biographical / Historical

John K. Davis was born October 5, 1906 in Bristol, Tennessee where he was educated in the Bristol Public Schools. While attending Virginia Military Institute (VMI) from 1925-1929, he actively participated in sports, was the associate editor of the yearbook, engaged in other collegiate activities, and held the rank of cadet lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve. Upon graduation, he received a commission of 2nd lieutenant. As a student, Davis worked as a truck driver for the East Tennessee Light and Power Company and he also worked as a helper, drafts man, surveyor, field man and estimator.

Davis graduated from VMI with a BS in Electrical Engineering in 1929, and joined the Public Service Company of Colorado as a cadet engineer until 1930 when he returned to the East Tennessee Light and Power Company where he quickly advanced and held several administrative positions including Electrical Engineer, Distribution Superintendent and Division Manager.

In 1931, John Davis married Ruth Addington Powers of Bristol, Tennessee. They had two children, J. Kennerly Davis, Jr. and Dorothy Gordon Davis.

In 1942, Davis was called to active duty service at the ranking of Captain for the U.S. Army. His tour of duty in the U.S. Army spanned from 1942 to 1946. Prior to his assignment, he attended the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, where he served in the Office of Chief of Engineers in Washington D.C. Upon his graduation from Fort Leavenworth, John K. Davis was assigned to overseas duty to serve in the Southwest Pacific and Japan where he served on the staff of General Douglas MacArthur in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. While on General MacArthur’s staff, Davis advanced to the rank of lieutenant colonel and received the Bronze Star Medal for outstanding service with additional citations and commendations.

John K. Davis was officially discharged from his duties in Fort Meade on May 6, 1946. However, John continued to serve to his country and the state of Ohio since he signed several Ohio National Guard enlistment registrations between 1949 and 1953. During his service in the Ohio National Guard, in 1950, he submitted an application to become a certified member of the Ohio Professional Engineers and Surveyors; he was approved.

Shortly after his official discharge from active duty, John K. Davis joined the Toledo Edison Company as Personnel Director, under the direction of his former boss at the East Tennessee Light and Power Company, which launched an accomplished career for Davis and created milestones for Toledo Edison and the energy industry. In his time at Toledo Edison, Davis assumed the role of executive head of marketing in 1955, while he held the position assistant general manager. He was promoted to executive vice president in 1957 then president two years later. From 1972 until his retirement in 1974, he served as Toledo Edison’s chairman.

John Davis was an advocate for education and his involvement was instrumental instituting the Toledo Edison Manager Development Program to usher a fresh wave of leadership to fulfill the growing company’s needs.

Toledo Edison performed well above expectations under the leadership of John Davis. The company expanded its service with the construction of four generating units at Bay Shore Station. The Toledo Edison Plaza officially established its headquarters downtown on July 24, 1970 with a topping-out ceremony.

In addition to leading Toledo Edison, Davis was also the director of the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC) which was comprised of 15 investor owned electric companies. The purpose of OVEC was to establish the construction of two giant coal-fired generating plants that served the Atomic Energy Commission’s diffusion plant, which contracted for 1,800,000 kilowatts.

Though the electric industry found business sustainable well enough through the utilization of coal and other fossil fuels, John Davis directed some of the major technological advances in the electric utility industry with the application of nuclear energy. He was the director of Atomic Power Associates, comprised of 42 electric companies, manufacturers and engineering groups. This association was responsible for the development and research of the Enrico Fermi Atomic Power Plant, which at the time was the world’s largest experimental breeder reactor and a significant milestone in the development of peacetime atomic power.

The culmination of his involvement with the development of nuclear utility resulted in the construction of the Davis-Besse nuclear power facility in Oak Harbor, Ohio. The plant is named after both John K. Davis and Ralph M. Besse, former chairman of the board for the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company. In 1972, Mr. John Davis and other Toledo Edison officials hosted Ohio governor John J. Gilligan on a tour of the nuclear power facility and marked the occasion with a topping-out ceremony for the first unit’s cooling tower in October 1972. Davis-Besse began officially operating in 1977, and established Toledo Edison’s entry into the nuclear power field and the plant still operates today.

Not only was John Davis active with Toledo Edison operations, but he was active in the community and held numerous positions in a variety of local organizations. He served on a number of business and civic groups, including the Toledo Rotary Club, Toledo Hospital, and the Toledo Museum of Art, where Ward M. Canaday also served as an honorary trustee. Davis also assumed several roles of leadership with the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce, the Red Cross, Boys’ Club of Toledo, and the Toledo Symphony Orchestra.

On July 1, 1974, John Davis retired from his post as chairman of the board of Toledo Edison Co., and 47 years of employment within the electric utility industry. Of those 47 years, he spent 28 years with the Toledo Edison Company; he was succeeded of his presidency by John P. Williamson. Toledo Edison performed well above expectations under the leadership of John Davis. By 1972, Toledo Edison served more than three-quarters-of-a-million people in a 2,500 square mile area of Northwestern Ohio. Moreover, the $572 million firm’s more than 60,000 shareholders resided in all fifty states and several foreign countries. Under his direction, Toledo Edison’s production, revenue, earnings and dividends more than doubled. Davis pioneered advancements in the electric utility industry that proved invaluable.

John K. Davis died on May 28, 1975 at the age of 68.


John Davis Papers/MSS-338/Collection Files/Biographical Sketch

John Davis Papers/MSS-338/Collection Files/Toledo Edison News 1974

John Davis Papers/MSS-338/Collection Files/Collection Appraisal 2018

John Davis Papers/MSS-338/Collection Files/ The Toledo Blade 1974

John Davis Papers/MSS-338/Collection Files/ Speeches & Addresses 1965-1970

John Davis Papers/MSS-338/Collection Files/ In Memorium John K. Davis 1975

John Davis Papers/MSS-338/Collection Files/ Correspondence 1959

John Davis Papers/MSS-338/Collection Files/Publicity Biography 1963  


9 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Condition Description

Very good.

Cultural context



John Davis Papers, 1929-1977
Jeff Hammye
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
1st Edition

Repository Details

Part of the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections Repository

2801 West Bancroft Street
William S. Carlson Library, Fifth Floor
Toledo Ohio 43606 United States