James Davis, planter, soldier, and politician, was born in Virginia in July 1790. He was an officer during the War of 1812 and fought at the battle of New Orleans. He was appointed sheriff of Marian County, Alabama Territory, in 1818, became county judge of Franklin County, Alabama, in 1823, and was solicitor of the Fourth Judicial Court in that state in 1827. He was elected major general, Second Division, Alabama Militia, in 1833. Davis was appointed United States consul at Santa Fe in November 1831 and moved to Texas about 1834. He served on Gen. Sam Houston's staff in 1836 and was asked to help prevent attacks on the Alabama and Coushatta Indians in April 1842. As adjutant general of the Army of the Republic of Texas from May to July 1842, Davis and Capt. Ewen Cameron, leading what had been a mutinous, disorganized, ill-supplied command, defeated a Mexican force three times their size at the engagement at Lipantitlán on July 7, 1842.
Having established the Lake Creek Plantation on the west bank of the Trinity River, Davis represented Liberty County in the Eighth Congress of the republic in 1843–44. He was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1845 as well as a delegate to the national Democratic convention at Baltimore in 1848. He was elected state senator from Liberty, Jefferson, Tyler, and Polk counties and served in the Fourth Texas Legislature (1851–53). The 1850 census reported that Davis, one of the wealthiest men in East Texas, owned $50,000 in real property in Polk County and forty-seven slaves in Liberty and Polk counties. He was married to Anne Eliza Hill and had seven children. He supported homestead exemptions for property owners and gave land to help establish a Baptist church in 1848. He died on February 10, 1859, and was buried at Coldspring.