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Elvin Davenport Papers

 Collection
Identifier: UP002362
The papers of Elvin Davenport primarily document his practice as an attorney and judge in the city of Detroit, from 1942-1977. Of particular note are correspondence files that demonstrate the integral role Mr. Davenport played in both the judicial profession and local community service organizations, as well as the relationships he cultivated as a result of his involvement.

Important Subjects: African American judges African American judges--Michigan--Biography. African American lawyers--History. African Americans. Civil rights Courts--Michigan. Courts--Michigan--Detroit. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Detroit Branch

Important Names: George Crockett Wynn C. Garvin Damon Keith Wade H. McCree G. Mennen Williams

Dates

  • 1942 - 1991
  • Majority of material found within 1942 - 1977

Creator

Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.

Access

Collection is open for research.

Use

Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.

Extent

1.25 Linear Feet ((1 SB, 1 MB), 2 OS)

Abstract

Elvin Lamoine Davenport (1899-1988) was the first African-American judge elected to the Recorder’s Court for the City of Detroit; he served on the bench for over 20 years. Davenport was born in Folly, Virginia, attended local schools, and received his undergraduate degree from Temple University and his law degree from Howard University Law School in 1929. After graduation he worked as a Pullman porter for the Canadian Pacific Railroad, and completed further graduate studies at McGill University. Davenport moved to Detroit, Michigan where he was appointed to the State Bar in 1931. He became associated with the law firm of Stowers, Bledsoe & Dent, later forming his own practice with Garvin, Osborne, Smith, and Fuller (1931-1945). Like many African-American lawyers practicing at the time, Davenport had difficulty attracting clients; to make a decent living he also sold life insurance. He became heavily involved in civil rights cases, serving as counsel for the NAACP in the Sojourner Truth housing project riots; the 1943 Detroit race riot inquest in police shootings; and the general court martial charges against Lt. Milton R. Henry. He was appointed as the Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor in 1945-1946 and 1948-1956. In 1956, Governor G. Mennen Williams appointed him to the Common Pleas Court for the City of Detroit, making Davenport again the first African-American to be appointed to the position. By 1957, he was elevated to the Recorder’s Court for the City of Detroit. Davenport sat on the bench until his retirement in 1977. Throughout his life, Elvin Davenport was a member of many professional and service organizations. Elvin Davenport died in June of1988.

The papers of Elvin Davenport primarily document his practice as an attorney and judge in the city of Detroit, from 1942-1977. Of particular note are correspondence files that demonstrate the integral role Mr. Davenport played in both the judicial profession and local community service organizations, as well as the relationships he cultivated as a result of his involvement.

History

Elvin Lamoine Davenport (1899-1988) was the first African-American judge elected to the Recorder’s Court for the City of Detroit; he served on the bench for over 20 years. Davenport was born in Folly, Virginia, attended local schools, and received his undergraduate degree from Temple University and his law degree from Howard University Law School in 1929. After graduation he worked as a Pullman porter for the Canadian Pacific Railroad, and completed further graduate studies at McGill University. Davenport moved to Detroit, Michigan where he was appointed to the State Bar in 1931. He became associated with the law firm of Stowers, Bledsoe and Dent, later forming his own practice with Garvin, Osborne, Smith, and Fuller (1931-1945). Like many African-American lawyers practicing at the time, Davenport had difficulty attracting clients; to make a decent living he also sold life insurance. He became heavily involved in civil rights cases, serving as counsel for the NAACP in the Sojourner Truth housing project riots; the 1943 Detroit race riot inquest in police shootings; and the general court martial charges against Lt. Milton R. Henry. He was appointed as the Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor in 1945-1946 and 1948-1956. In 1956, Governor G. Mennen Williams appointed him to the Common Pleas Court for the City of Detroit, making Davenport again the first African-American to be appointed to the position. By 1957, he was elevated to the Recorder’s Court for the City of Detroit. Davenport sat on the bench until his retirement in 1977. Throughout his life, Elvin Davenport was a member of many professional and service organizations. Elvin Davenport died in June of 1988.

Arrangement

Folders are listed by their location within each box. They are not necessarily arranged, so any given subject may be dispersed throughout the entire collection.

Acquisition

The Elvin L. Davenport Papers were donated to the Walter P. Reuther Library Damon J. Keith Law Collection of African American Legal History by Mildred Davenport Wilson in September and October 2012.

Related Materials

Damon J. Keith Papers

Transfers

Oversized items and audiovisual materials (see inventory at end of guide) have been transferred to the Reuther Library’s Audiovisual Department. Originals of signed correspondence from Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Senator Edward Kennedy, and Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Thurgood Marshall, were placed in the vault.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Leslie Van Veen on January 16, 2013.
Title
Guide to the Elvin Davenport Papers
Status
completed
Author
Processed by Leslie Van Veen.
Date
2013-01-16
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

Contact:
5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA