Elvin Davenport Papers
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.
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