The School of Law’s first African American graduate, Chester C. Davenport (LL.B.’66), passed away Aug. 7, 2020, at the age of 79.
Davenport was a monumental figure in our school’s history. He was the law school’s first Black student and remained its only Black student during his law school career. A trailblazer and a leader, Davenport graduated at the top of his class and helped to found the Georgia Law Review. He was a successful attorney, public servant, entrepreneur and businessman. He also was a philanthropist, not only giving financially to his alma mater but donating his time as well.
“The University of Georgia mourns the loss of Chester Davenport, and we extend our deepest condolences to his family,” said President Jere W. Morehead (J.D.’80). “We are incredibly fortunate that Mr. Davenport chose to pursue his law degree at UGA. He accomplished so much in his life and career, and he gave back in so many ways to this university. His legacy will live on forever here.”
Born in Athens, Georgia, Davenport was a cum laude graduate of Morehouse College, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1963. He received his law degree in 1966 after finishing in the top 5% of his class and serving as a founding member of the editorial board for the Georgia Law Review.
After law school, Davenport became an attorney in the tax division of the U.S. Department of Justice and subsequently served as a legislative assistant for California Sen. Alan Cranston. Following a position on President Jimmy Carter’s transition team and an appointment as an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation, Davenport co-founded a law practice based in Washington, D.C. He then started Georgetown Partners, a private equity firm. During his 50-plus-year professional career, he served in leadership roles in various industries, including banking, finance, telecommunications, transportation and technology.
Davenport was a regular supporter of the School of Law and the University of Georgia throughout his life. He served as a member of the law school’s Board of Visitors and the UGA Arch Foundation. He delivered the law school’s 97th Sibley Lecture and participated in the school’s 50th anniversary commemoration of the landmark Brown v. Topeka Board of Education case. In 2006, he established the Chester C. Davenport Scholarship Fund through a generous charitable gift.
For his actions, in 2004, the UGA chapter of the Black Law Students Association voted to change its name to include Davenport’s. Additionally, he received the law school alumni association’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Scroll Award, in 2016.
“The contributions of Chester Davenport and what he means to the School of Law are hard to put into words,” Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge said. “He changed the landscape and trajectory of our great law school. Chester once said attending the School of Law was one of the defining moments in his life. Likewise, his attendance was an important turning point for our institution. In his memory, we will remain steadfast in our work to make a first-rate legal education possible for those seeking to be the first in their families to earn a law degree or to serve in underrepresented and/or vulnerable areas of our state and society.”
In early October, the University of Georgia and the School of Law established the Chester C. Davenport Memorial Endowment Fund to support scholarships and fellowships in Davenport’s honor. The fund will give priority to incoming students in the School of Law who have graduated from Georgia-based historically Black colleges and universities. Recipients also will be chosen for reflecting Davenport’s legacy of academic excellence, courage, determination and trailblazing spirit.