Drexell R. Davis, Secretary of State for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, 1976-80 and 1984-88, was born July 18, 1921, in Shelby County, Kentucky, to Forest and Myrtle (Stacy) Davis. He had two brothers, one stepbrother, one sister, and one stepsister. He graduated from Henry Clay High School in Shelby County and attended Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky, for two years. He served in the U.S. Army for thirty-nine months during World War II, with thirty of those months in the South Pacific. He married Sarah Lillis in 1947. Two children were born to their union, Drexell, Jr. and Ann Lillis. Sarah died on November 9, 2002.
Davis began his political career in 1948 as Deputy Clerk of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. He was first elected to statewide office in 1963 when he won a race for Clerk of the Court of Appeals, where he served from 1964 to 1968. In 1971, he was elected State Treasurer. He served in that position from 1972 to 1976, when he began his first term as Secretary of State. In 1980 he began another term as State Treasurer and in 1984 a second term as Secretary of State. On June 18, 1984, when the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and President ProTem of the Senate were out of state, Davis served as Governor for a day.
As Treasurer, his policy of overnight bank deposits earned the state an additional $2 million a year. As Secretary of State, he initiated a program to link computers in the county clerks’ offices to the Secretary of State’s computer so that election returns could be tallied for the whole state in two to three hours after the close of the polls.
Davis continued to live in Frankfort following his retirement. He periodically donated portions of his vast collection of political campaign buttons and memorabilia to the Kentucky Historical Society for archival preservation and public display.
Drex Davis died December 16, 2009, at the home of his son. Interment was in Sunset Memorial Gardens, Franklin County. On the passing of former Secretary Davis, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson said, "The Commonwealth has lost a political icon today. Drex dedicated his life to public service and his contributions to our state are still felt in the offices in which he served. Even today, we still have several employees who recall the imiportant innovations that he brought to Kentucky government. My heartfelt sympathies go out to the family of Secretary Davis and the long list of friends who worked beside him to make our Commonwealth an even better place to live and work."
"Frankfort State Journal," May 16, 1994;
Information supplied by Drexell Davis, July 2004.