The county was formed in 1822 from Rowan County. It was named after Brigadier General William Lee Davidson, an American Revolutionary War general killed at the Battle of Cowan's Ford on the Catawba River in 1781.
Davidson County is served by Davidson County Schools; however, the cities of Thomasville and Lexington have their own school districts. Davidson County Schools is one of the county's largest employers.
Davidson County is also served by Davidson County Community College, a comprehensive community college that is a member school of the North Carolina Community College System. Davidson County Community College was chartered in 1958 as an Industrial Education Center designed to provide adults with the education and skills needed to move from an agricultural to a manufacturing-based economy. Today, this mission is continued as the College develops programs and opportunities for education necessary for a knowledge-based economy.
In 1965, the institution was chartered as Davidson County Community College. The Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees were added to the existing Associate in Applied Science degree, Diploma, and Certificate programs. University transfer courses were added in 1966. In 1997, the College participated in the Comprehensive Articulation Agreement (CAA) that allows college transfer students to move easily to the 16 UNC schools, as well as many independent college and universities. Presently the Davidson Campus has grown to 11 buildings and two emergency services training facilities on approximately 97 acres (390,000 m2).