School of Law names rotunda after first Black graduate

Davenport portrait to be unveiled this fall

chester davenport pic

Chester Davenport (LL.B.’66), who passed away in 2020.

Last August, the School of Law named its iconic rotunda after its first Black graduate, Chester C. Davenport. A portrait of Davenport has been commissioned, and it will be unveiled and hung in the school’s main entryway during the fall 2022 semester.

Davenport, who passed away in August 2020, was a monumental figure in the School of Law’s history. He was the law school’s first Black student and remained its only Black student during his law school career. He earned his law degree in 1966, finishing in the top 5% of his class and serving as a founding member of the editorial board of the Georgia Law Review.

“It is with great pleasure that I share the news of the naming of the law school’s rotunda after one of our law school’s seminal figures,” Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge said. “I am grateful for the support of UGA President Jere W. Morehead (J.D.’80) for this effort and the University Cabinet for its approval of the law school’s request. As I have said before, Chester was a trailblazer who achieved much in his lifetime, including the diversification of our law school and the legal profession. It is hoped that this permanent and prominent naming displayed at the main entrance to our school will inspire those who study here to carry on Davenport’s legacy of service to state and society.”

Since his passing, Davenport was memorialized with the establishment of the Chester C. Davenport Memorial Endowment at the law school and was posthumously awarded the UGA Alumni Association’s oldest and highest honor, the Alumni Merit Award.

davenport rotunda pic

The Davenport Rotunda, where a portrait of the law school’s first Black graduate – Chester Davenport – will be installed during the fall 2022 semester. Photo by UGA Marketing and Communications.

The Chester C. Davenport Memorial Endowment Fund was created to further Davenport’s legacy with scholarships and fellowships that give priority to students who have graduated from Georgia-based historically Black colleges and universities. Recipients also will be selected for reflecting Davenport’s reputation for academic excellence, courage, determination and trailblazing spirit.

The Alumni Merit Award is reserved for individuals who bring recognition and honor back to UGA through outstanding leadership and service to the university, the community and their profession.

After law school, the Athens, Georgia, native and Morehouse College graduate 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 assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation, Davenport co-founded a law practice based in Washington, D.C. He later started a private equity firm.

Davenport’s service to UGA included positions on 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 made a transformational gift to the law school to support student scholarships. The UGA chapter of the Black Law Students Association bears his name and, in 2016, he received the Law School Association’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Scroll Award.