All this talk of the state's official flag, seal and bird got me to thinking about one of our two official songs, "You Are My Sunshine," and the man who made it famous: Gov. Jimmie Davis. Davis, a country and gospel singer-songwriter who was also a two-term Louisiana governor (1944-48 and 1960-64), co-wrote the song and first recorded it in 1940.
Louisiana already had an official song ("Give Me Louisiana") when the first attempt was made to add Davis' ballad to the law books. In 1968, the Legislature passed a bill naming "Sunshine" the official state song, though some lawmakers had reservations. Some called the move too commercial and opposed the song because of its link to Davis, who made headlines during his second term as a segregationist. "I served four years under Davis and I wouldn't want to be reminded," commented state Sen. John Schwegmann. Ultimately, the bill passed, but was vetoed by Gov. John McKeithen who said, "Although I have great esteem for the composer and the song, I don't believe it is appropriate for the state song of Louisiana." Lawmakers tried again in 1977 with more success, making "Sunshine" official.
When Davis died in 2000 at the age of 101, his obituary included the fact that the song had been recorded by more than 350 artists, sold millions of records and was translated into 30 languages, making it one of the world's most recognizable tunes.