Anne M. Davis was a native of Louisville, Kentucky, who moved to Knoxville in 1915 with her husband Willis P. Davis, the president of Knoxville Iron Company. She soon developed a lifelong love for the Great Smoky Mountains, and she and her husband spent much of the 1920s working for the establishment of a national park in the Smokies.
Davis is credited with inspiring the park movement in Knoxville in 1923, when she asked her husband about the feasibility of a park as the couple returned from a trip to the western parks. Willis Davis threw his considerable energies into organizing the local business community for the promotion of a Smokies park. He became a charter member and first president of the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association, which played a key role in making the park a reality.
Anne Davis's most important contribution came in 1924, when she declared her intention to run for the Tennessee General Assembly on the Republican ticket. Davis won the election, becoming only the third woman elected to the Tennessee House. She sponsored legislation for the purchase of 78,131 acres of mountain land owned by the Little River Lumber Company. When the bill encountered opposition, Davis organized an inspection trip for the entire legislature and effectively swayed critics, who had previously characterized the area as “stump land.” In an appropriate tribute to Davis, Tennessee Governor Austin Peay gave her the pen he used to sign the bill into law.
Davis served only one term in the House and never again ran for public office. After her husband died in 1931, she moved to Gatlinburg to be closer to the mountains she loved. Davis remained active in civic life as a member and officer in the League of Women Voters and led the successful movement to establish a public library in Gatlinburg.