School unveils portrait memorializing first Black graduate

In October, the School of Law unveiled the portrait of its first Black graduate, the late Chester C. Davenport, and the painting now hangs in the law school’s iconic rotunda that bears his name.

Davenport portrait with family and students

Law students Tia Brown, Celina Cotton, Jessica Davis, David Howell, Jordan Jackson, Erika Love, Garfield McIntyre, Natalya Moody, Justin Nixon, Akilah Parker, Julian Rheams and Cori Robinson pose with Chester Davenport’s daughter CeCe (center in burgundy) and her uncle, Reginald Willis, in front of the portrait.

“Today we honor the first,” Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge said at the event. “When future students following in Chester’s footsteps enter these halls for the first time, they [will] forever see Chester’s name. They [will] forever see Chester’s portrait. They [will] forever know that they belong here just like Chester did and just like Chester does now.”

In addition to the law school community, members of the Davenport family, including Chester’s daughter, CeCe, attended the unveiling.

“It’s very interesting to think about, not only the legacy that he left from his life and his professional career, but just thinking about him as a father,” CeCe Davenport said. “I was so fortunate to have not only a trailblazer but to have someone who was … my toughest critic and my fiercest advocate.”

She encouraged those in attendance to continue her father’s legacy. “Stand up for yourself and stand up for others,” she said. “Keep being trailblazers in your own way.”

Davenport, who passed away in 2020, graduated from the School of Law in 1966 after remaining its only Black student during his three years at UGA. A native of Athens, he finished in the top 5% of his class and served as a founding member of the editorial board of the Georgia Law Review. After graduation he became an attorney in the tax division of the U.S. Department of Justice, served as a legislative assistant for California Sen. Alan Cranston and went on to be a part of President Jimmy Carter’s transition team before receiving an appointment as an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Transportation. Davenport’s 50-year-plus career included key roles in the banking, finance, telecommunications, transportation and energy sectors.