He soon became involved as a Democrat in
local politics. He was elected to serve as alderman of the First
Ward for two years and later as the District Attorney of Jefferson
County for four years. He ran for the US Senate in 1918 but was
defeated. He became chairman of the Democratic Committee for its
Western headquarters in Woodrow Wilson's run for the presidency
in 1912. Wilson won, and Davies followed him to Washington. Not
long afterward, Wilson named Davies to be Chairman of the Federal
Trade Commission. Later, Davies worked as an advisor to President
Wilson at the Versailles Conference after World War I. Following
that conflict, Davies continued to serve his country as the nation's
ambassador to Russia and Belgium. During World War II, Davies
was designated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as having ambassador
rank and was a frequent consultant to the president. He was an
advisor to him during the major Allied conferences of the period
which included Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin.
In 1946, Davies was recognized for his outstanding service to
his country when he was decorated with the Order of Merit (now
the Medal of Freedom), the highest civilian award given by the
Davies finest hour was reached in 1951
when he established the Joe Davies Scholarship Foundation. The
first scholarship was given in 1952 to a graduating senior from
Watertown High School, Jane Weaver. Davies himself later expanded
the award to also include the high schools of six surrounding
communities where he had practiced law as a young man. Included
are Jefferson and Juneau (1955), Fort Atkinson (1955), Waterloo
(1957), plus Johnson Creek and Lake Mills (1958).
A gift by Davies to the University of Wisconsin-Madison
is not widely knows. It is a collection of wonderful Russian art,
especially icons which he had gathered during his years as ambassador
to Russia. These artifacts today are displayed at the Elvehjem
Museum of Art at UW-Madison. In 1970, the Foundation also set
up the Joseph E Davies Prize for scholarship and contributions
to the life of the school. This award was given to law school
students only. The most famous recipient was Vice President Dick
Cheney. That tribute was later phased out.
Davies clearly enjoyed his tour of duty
as Ambassador to Russia. As an outgrowth of that service, he compiled
a narrative telling of his own experiences during that period.
His Mission to Moscow was published in 1942, and a movie by the
same name came out the following year.
Joe Davies was a remarkable citizen who
served his community, his country and his fellow man very well.
He passed away in May 1958.