Famous Arkansan: Gail Davis

Several well-known people
have roots in Arkansas. The list runs the gamut from Johnny Cash to Jermain
Taylor. Check here  as we highlight a new Famous Arkansan each month. Today,

Meet: Gail Davis



Did you know the first woman to star in a TV Western was from Arkansas?  The honor goes to Little Rock native and
actress Gail Davis (1925-1997), who was known as television’s Annie
Oakley in the 1950s. She starred as the legendary cowgirl and rifle shooting
superstar from 1954 through 1956. The show ran on ABC and was seen in reruns
well into the 1960s. What also stands out about her is that she did her own stunts. 


According to an article written by Nancy Hendricks for the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, she was ” just over five feet tall
and under 100 pounds, Davis was a charming heroine on Annie Oakley
wore pigtails and stopped criminals by outsmarting them or shooting the guns
out of their hands. She rode horses and did many of her own stunts. She was the
first woman to star in a TV western. Many young women later said they were
influenced by watching Gail Davis as Annie Oakley, a female character in a
traditionally male role. In the show, Gail took care of her younger brother,
Tagg, in the fictional town of Diablo and solved crimes with handsome deputy
sheriff Lofty Craig.”



The show was
created for Davis by “singing cowboy” Gene Autry, who she had
previously appeared with in several westerns. Davis ( who was from McGehee)
was known as Betty Jeanne Grayson before the show but Autry ( who produced the
show) changed her name to Davis for the series.



After the
series ended Davis continued to make personal appearances with Autry. Over her
career she also appeared in 32 films and had guest roles on shows like The Lone
and The Cisco Kid. She was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of
Fame and is a member of the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame. 


Posted in Travel Arkansas
One comment on “Famous Arkansan: Gail Davis
  1. Beth says:

    I think her real name was Billy Jean Grayson, not sure of the spelling. Her parents lived across the street from Pulaski Heights Junior High in LIttle Rock. Her dad was a dentist and her daughter lived with her grandparents at least during her elementary school years.

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