NEW ORLEANS -- Only a real scene-stealer could compete for the historical spotlight in a state that produced the fiery populist Huey Long and the dapper scoundrel Edwin Edwards.
Jimmie Davis was just the showman to do it. Witness his horseback ride up the steps of the towering state Capitol in 1961, flashbulbs popping all around him, just to make a point.
Davis, the recording artist who made "You Are My Sunshine" a hit and got elected governor twice, died Sunday. He was believed to be 101 although he had acknowledged that he was not certain of the year of his birth.
"This guy was truly a legend for what he's done and what he's meant to the state," said state Rep. Donald Ray Kennard.
Davis made his mark with smooth talking and sweet singing. He served as governor during two tumultuous periods: from 1944-48, when the family and allies of Long still vied with their opponents for political power; and 1960-64, when Davis adopted a strong segregationist stance in a losing battle with the federal government.
But, as Loyola University political science professor Ed Renwick noted Sunday in New Orleans, "He was best known for his singing career, more so than his two terms as governor."
Davis estimated that he wrote more than 400 songs, including "It Makes No Difference Now" and "Sweethearts or Strangers," and recorded at least 52 albums. "You Are My Sunshine," his first smash hit in the late '30s, became a standard.
He was remembered for pushing through legislation in his first term creating the state's first driver's licenses, and, in his second, for seeing the state through the school desegregation battles of the early 1960s.
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