Rowland L.Davis was born on July 10, 1871 in Dryden, New York. He was the son of a Civil War officer, who was successively a construction foreman, a postmaster, and a farmer. He attended public schools near McClean, the Cortland Norman School, and Cornell Law School. He received a law degree from this last institution in 1897, being admitted to the bar on July 6th of that year. From 1897 to 1915, he practiced in partnership in Cortland.
Davis was elected Police Justice of the Village of Cortland in 1899. The following year Cortland was incorporated as a city, with Davis invested as its first City Judge. He left office in 1903, and remained in strictly private practice for the next twelve years. He was appointed to the Supreme Court for the Sixth District on August 3, 1915. He remained a trial judge until the beginning of 1921, at which time he commenced an unusual career at the Appellate Division. He was posted to the Fourth Department from January of 1921 to November of 1926; to the Third Department from November of 1926 to March of 1931; and to the Second Department from March of 1931 to March of 1939. He was reassigned at his behest to trial work in the Sixth District in March of 1939. He resigned from the Court on March 31, 1941. He retired to a farm in Cortland County and died on February 1, 1954.