JOHN H. DAVIDSON of rural Vermillion died November 16, 2019 at the age of 77. Per his wishes there will be no memorial service.

John was the middle child of John H. and Estous (Lee) Davidson of Washington, Pennsylvania, where he was raised with his sisters; Estous Lee Davidson and Mary D. Brown. He was the father of Benjamin Beard Davidson and Felix Beard Davidson, and grandfather to William Beard Davidson, Mason Andrew Davidson, and Jaxson Miles Davidson.

He enjoyed a fortunate childhood, educated in the public schools, played sandlot sports of every kind, and passing summers in West Virginia with his sisters and numerous Lee family relatives. He was also fortunate in his educational experiences at Wake Forest College, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and George Washington University.

The great event in John’s life was his marriage with Catherine Fellowes (Cathy) Beard, which began on October 14, 1967 and brought love, life, laughter, and a rich understanding to his days. Together, they built a life on their farm, North of Vermillion, where the joys, hazards, surprises, and repose of rural living filled their time together. In later years their fields were restored prairie, which, along with their gardens, orchards, and endless projects, framed their days. Together they respected and admired all animal life and living things. John died overwhelmed with gratitude for the days and years spent with Cathy Beard.

John entered the Bar in Pittsburgh in 1967 and, after practicing law in that city, embarked on a career in legal education and scholarship which brought him to the University of South Dakota School of Law at a time when the law program was expanding. In 2007 he became Professor Emeritus but continued to teach and speak on a reduced schedule. During his years at USD, John was recognized for his expertise in areas pertaining to the law of water, agriculture, natural resources, and protection of the environment, fields to which he contributed numerous books and other writings. Throughout his career he participated in significant legal actions seeking protection of the natural environment.

He was a leader I the region’s conservation community, serving Northern Prairies Land Trust for many years, among numerous similar activities.

A reserved man, he was not inclined to join, but when he did he typically did so with enthusiasm. A reflective man, he found no home or comfort in institutional religions.

John wrote this!

Kober Funeral Home of Vermillion has been entrusted with the services.

Condolences may be posted online to


(1) comment


Rest in peace John. I feel honored to have known you. Myself and many others carry a love for the tallgrass prairie that would never have been created were it not for your leadership in Northern Prairies Land Trust.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.