David Rowland Francis was born on Oct. 1, 1850, in Richmond, Kentucky. The son of Eliza Caldwell and John Broaddus Francis, he attended the Rev. Robert Breck’s Richmond Academy. He then graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 1870.
After working as a commission house clerk, Francis established his own commission company in St. Louis and served as the president of a grain merchant’s exchange. In 1880, he was a founding member of the St. Louis Mining and Stock Exchange.
Francis married Jane Perry on Jan. 20, 1876, and the couple were blessed with six children.
Francis was elected mayor of St. Louis in 1885 and Missouri governor in 1888. During his term as governor the Barnes Medical College was established, as well as the Missouri State Federation of Fabor and the Board of Mediation and Arbitration.
Following the fire at Academic Hall in 1892, Francis was credited with keeping the university in Columbia rather than allowing it to be moved to Sedalia as many in the state legislature wanted. The Quad, as it is called, is the historical center of MU. At its center are six Ionic columns, the only remains of Academic Hall. It was dedicated as the David R. Francis Quadrangle in 1895.
On Sept. 3, 1896, President Grover Cleveland appointed Francis U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Francis served less than a year, leaving office the day after President William McKinley was sworn in.
It was suggested in 1896 to commemorate the Louisiana Purchase, but nothing came of the idea until the Missouri Historical Society endorsed the idea in 1898. At a public hearing in June of that year, David Francis was elected president of a celebration committee. The St. Louis Businessmen’s League took it a step further and plans for a World’s Fair in St. Louis were underway. Francis also was responsible for the 1904 Summer Olympics that took place at the same time. He became the only American to open an Olympic Games who was never President or Vice President of the US.
Francis was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Russia on May 5, 1916, by President Woodrow Wilson and served until November 7, 1917.
Jane Francis died on March 21, 1924. David Rowland Francis followed her in death on January 15, 1927.
Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written HISTORICALLY YOURS for the Boonville Daily News since April 2008, She has covered the War Between the States, US history, and Cooper County history. In celebration of Missouri’s upcoming Bicentennial, she syndicated her column statewide in September 2018 and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to HistoricallyYours.firstname.lastname@example.org