Chalmers Gaston Davidson was born June 6. 1907 in Chester, South Carolina to Zeb Vance and Kate (Gaston) Davidson. He began his distinguished career in education at Davidson College, graduating summa cum laude in 1928. He continued his education at Harvard (M.A. in 1930 and Ph.D. in 1942) and the University of Chicago (M.A. in Library Science in 1936). Davidson began teaching in 1928 at various schools in the South, including The Citadel, but returned to his beloved Davidson College in 1936. Known as “Dr. D,” he taught history and served as Director of the Library from 1936-1976. In retirement, he was College Archivist and professor emeritus.
Dr. Davidson married Alice Graham Gage of Chester, S.C. in 1937. In the 1970s, the Davidson family lived in Beaver Dam, the historic plantation house built by William Lee Davidson II. Dr. Davidson is a direct descendent of Major John Davidson and a collateral descendent of General Wiliam Lee Davidson for whom the college is named. One of Chalmer’s grandsons, Robert Gage Davidson, Jr. was a 1989 graduate of Davidson College and represents the fifth generation of this family to graduate from the college. (Park, Tribute)
His love of local history resulted in prolific writing focusing on North and South Carolina including nine books, numerous articles, and hundreds of speeches. His work received the Charles A. Cannon Award for North Carolina history and the Award of Merit from the North Carolina Society of County and Local Historians. He also served many historical and writer’s organizations in leadership positions and was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in 1992 by Governor James Martin.
While he jokingly said “What I enjoyed teaching was ‘Social and Cultural History of the United States,’ that’s the one they called ‘Cocktails and Culture,” he is best known for his definition of Davidson College as “a way of life–based on things of the mind, tempered by manners and morality.” (In Memoriam)
Dr. Davidson gives funeral service for Shearer Hall in 1960.
Above all Dr. Davidson was fiercely loyal to Davidson College and believed that students and alumni had a responsiblility to their school. In describing his book The Generations of Davidson College, he said, “I want students and alumni to feel that ‘ This college is mine. I rise and fall to some extent with it. It rises and falls with me’. Learning should be cherished.” (Park, Tribute)
“In Memoriam–Chalmers G. Davidson ’28.” Davidson Journal, Summer 1994, p.25.
Park, Leland M. “Tribute.” The Generations of Davidson College, 1998, p.v.
Author: Alice Sloop
Date: October 2009
Cite as: Sloop, Alice. “Chalmers Gaston Davidson ” Davidson Encyclopedia October