Fort Worth

Trailblazing Judge and Fort Worth Attorney L. Clifford Davis & His Impact on School Desegregation

During Black History Month, NBC 5 is taking a closer look at the men and women who broke barriers and the people shaping the future for North Texas.

L. Clifford Davis poses for a picture.

L. Clifford Davis was born in 1924 in Wilton, Arkansas, but in his adult life, he would make his mark on North Texas history.

He was admitted into the University of Arkansas Law School in 1947, but on the condition that he could not go into any room where white students were present. Davis decided to complete his law degree at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and returned to Arkansas to practice law.

A few years later, he took the Texas Bar and in 1954 he became one of only two African American attorneys in Fort Worth. In 1956, Davis filed a federal lawsuit which would eventually result in the integration of Mansfield public schools. It was a victory on paper, but because so many white students threatened violence, the integration didn’t happen immediately.

Davis is also credited for working with the late Justice Thurgood Marshall on “Brown vs. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas.” It was a landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court making racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional.

Then, in 1959, he won another lawsuit, forcing the integration of Fort Worth schools.

An elementary school on Campus Drive in Fort Worth, bears his name.

“I am very proud of the fact that there is a school bearing my name, because education is such an important element in a society,” Davis said according to the school’s website.

Davis also met with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during his only visit to Fort Worth.

He has been credited with forming the Fort Worth Black Bar Association in 1977.

In his career, he has been awarded the highest honor given by the Tarrant County Bar Association, the Blackstone Award. He has also been named in the National Bar Associations Hall of Fame.

Ironically, in 2017, he received an honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Arkansas, the same school that put stipulations on his attending.

He currently serves as “of counsel” with the law firm of Johnson, Vaughn, & Heiskell in Fort Worth.

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