William R. Davie, ca. 1800
Born in England, William R. Davie moved with his parents to the Waxhaws near
Lancaster, South Carolina, in 1764, when he was eight years old. He graduated
from the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1776, just as the Revolution began,
and quickly became one of the chief organizers of patriot forces in the Carolina
Piedmont. Wounded at the Battle of Stono Ferry in 1779, he retired to Salisbury,
North Carolina, and there read law. When Cornwallis's troops reached the Piedmont,
Davie organized a company of cavalry to resist them. Nathanael Greene, on taking
command of the Southern Army, made Davie his commissary general.
After the Revolution Davie practiced law in Halifax, became interested in politics,
and soon rose to a position of prominence in the Federalist Party. At the age of thirty
he was one of the framers of the U.S. Constitution. In 1789, at the Fayetteville Convention,
he introduced the bill for North Carolina's ratification of the Constitution along with a
bill to charter the University of North Carolina. Now known as the "Father of the University,"
Davie was chiefly responsible for the establishment, building, and endowment of the university,
along with the selection of its faculty and the planning of its curriculum.
Image from North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives.