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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

DAVIS, HARRY EDWARD - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

DAVIS, HARRY EDWARD (26 Dec. 1882 - 4 Feb. 1955), a lawyer active in Republican party politics and black community affairs, was born in Cleveland to Jacob Henry and Rosalie Dete Davis. He attended Hiram College (1904-05), and earned his LL.B from the Western Reserve University Law School in 1908, being admitted to the bar and beginning private practice. In 1909, using the 1896 Ohio civil-rights law, Davis brought racial-discrimination charges against a Burrows Store seller who refused to sell to him. Although the seller was found guilty, the jury denied Davis civil damages.

In 1920, Davis was elected to the first of 4 terms in the Ohio general assembly. He introduced a referendum removing a provision limiting the elective franchise to "white male citizens" from the Ohio constitution, which passed in 1923. In 1928, Davis became the first black elected by city council to the Cleveland Civil Service Commission, serving as president from 1932-34. Elected to the Ohio senate in 1947, Davis was the first black legislator to preside over that body, and with his reelection in 1953, was the only successful black candidate for the Ohio legislature during the 1950s. Davis married Louise Wormley in 1917. He was a trustee of KARAMU HOUSE and EUCLID AVE. CHRISTIAN CHURCH; was a 33d-degree mason, and authored a manuscript on BLACKS in Masonry. His work on the history of blacks in Cleveland was completed by his brother, RUSSELL H. DAVIS†. The Cleveland Board of Education named Harry E. Davis Jr. High School in his honor in 1962.

Russell H. Davis Papers, WRHS.

Last Modified: 15 Jul 1997 09:50:43 AM

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