Among the early practitioners at the bar of Christian County, none surpassed in profound legal attainments Rezin Davidge. He was a brilliant and forcible speaker, an excellent judge of law, and a faithful and conscientious attorney. Strength of mind and purity of purpose were his leading traits. In his profession of the law, these made him a great chancery lawyer, no doubt one of the ablest the county knew in the early period of its history. In that branch of the law practice, that sometimes requires scheming and cunning diplomacy, he was neither great nor very successful, a proof that his nature was faithful and just, and that his integrity of mind was better adapted to the equity courts.
Judge Davidge was a native of Maryland, born in Baltimore County about the year 1770, and came to Kentucky soon after its admission into the Union as a State. He died in Hopkinsville, at ninety-seven years of age, and sleeps in the beautiful cemetery adjacent to the city. He came of a noted and wealthy family, and received all the educational advantages afforded by the infant Republic, with a finishing course in Europe. Thus his mental cultivation had been extensive, and his reading of a wider range than the average young man was able to obtain. In early life he served as midshipman in the United States Navy, and distinguished him-self as a gallant young officer. He had read law before his visit to the old country, and after a stay there of a year or two, enjoying the advantages of wisdom derived from such men as Pitt and Fox, had returned home with a mind well trained in legal lore. When he came to Kentucky, he first located in Russellville, but shortly after the organization of Christian County he established himself in Hopkinsville, and was the first Commonwealth’s Attorney, and appointed at the first term of the Circuit Court, March 28, 1803. He at once took rank at the very head of the profession, a position he ever maintained.
In the stormiest period of Kentucky politics ever known, perhaps, when the minds of men were inflamed by threatened bankruptcy, consequent upon the financial pressure following the war of 1812, which had paralyzed the whole country, Judge Davidge was appointed by the Legislature a Judge of the Court of Appeals on the “New Court” question, as it was called. This was one of the mistakes of his life, and a blow to his popularity from which it never fully recovered. Although the popular wave of relief, or “New Court,” wafted him to high judicial position, and for a brief time swept everything before it, yet in receding it drew with it the strong condemnations of the large majority of the bar and the judiciary of the State. The stormy and tempestuous scenes of this period are more fully described in the political history of the county, and are merely alluded to as an episode in the life of Judge Davidge. He, and his colleagues, William T. Barry, James Haggin and John Trimble, were never recognized, except by the New Court faction, as the Court of Appeals, and after a fitful and brief career as such, a new Legislature, hostile to the party that placed them in power, removed them, and the “Old Court” resumed sway. Upon the organization of a judicial district in “the Purchase,” Judge Davidge was appointed to the Circuit bench, and moved to that section of the State about 1830-31. He removed from there to Livingston County, and afterward to Princeton, but finally returned to Hopkinsville, where the remainder of his life was spent.
Judge Davidge was twice married. His first wife was a daughter of William Bell, of Bell’s Tavern, who bore him two sons – Rezin and James – and who died about 1824 or 1825. He next married, in 1830, Martha C. Dallam, who still survives him. The result of his second marriage was two sons, Robert A. and Henry, and three daughters, Mrs. Emma Brown, living in Hopkinsville; Mrs. Martha Patton, of Mississippi; and Mrs. Judge Campbell, of Paducah.