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This Day in NC History: Governor and UNC Founder William Davie died


On November 5, 1820, soldier, politician, and founder of the University of North Carolina, William R. Davie died at the age of 64.

Davie graduated from the College of New Jersey (later Princeton) in 1776 and moved to Salisbury, N.C., to study law. Davie had a brief military career in 1779-1780, but was wounded. Later, he organized cavalry, and mounted infantry and embarked on a campaign of partisan attacks in the Carolina backcountry.

Around 1786, Davie built a house in Halifax that still bears his name. He would represent Halifax in the General Assembly off and on for the next ten years. Davie was selected to be one of North Carolina’s five delegates to the Confederation Congress of 1787, and he campaigned for the Constitution’s ratification. At the 1789 convention in Fayetteville that ratified the Constitution, Davie introduced a bill to charter a state university. As founder, he guided the university through its formative years.

Elected governor of North Carolina in 1798, Davie went on to represent the United States in treaty negotiations, eventually retiring to his plantation in South Carolina where he died.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit

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