David Finley was born in Arkansas to David Miller and Elizabeth McIlwaine Finley, both South Carolinians. Orphaned at age two, he was reared by relatives near Rock Hill, and throughout his life, he fought his own battles and won his own triumphs. He attended York County schools and graduated from the South Carolina College with an LL.B. in 1885. He was married to Elizabeth Lewis Gist and they had eight children.
He practiced law at York, was elected to the South Carolina General Assembly in 1890, became a State Senator in 1892, serving on the Judiciary and Finance Committees and was elected to the United States Congress in 1898. He served ten consecutive terms as a Congressman from the Fifth District.
While in the U.S. Congress, he served for sixteen years on the Post Office and Post Roads Committee, working for Rural Free Delivery, a postal savings bank, parcel post and welfare of postal workers.
Fearless and unmovable in his convictions, careful and conscientious in serving his country, his courage and independence were tempered by warm cordiality and a gentle manner. He was devoted to his family and loyal to his friends.
He aspired to serve the common good.