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Monday Motivation: Judge L. Clifford Davis

 

Everyone possesses talent, talents beneficial to the whole community. This is a philosophy that Judge L. Clifford Davis has sought to live his life by and advocate for throughout his career. 

Davis calls this philosophy, based on the U.S. Constitution, civil responsibility.

“We the people of the United States, in order to continue to form this development of a more perfect union have a civil responsibility, individually and collectively, to treat all inhabitants with decency, respect, courtesy, and integrity without regard to their race, their age, their culture, their sexual orientation, their educational level, or any other socio-economic factor and to advocate for and practice freedom, liberty, justice, health, safety, and equal opportunities for the general welfare for all of the community,” he said. 

Throughout his more than 70-year career, Davis has fought for equal opportunities for all in the sectors of education, housing, employment, and politics. He has worked through a collective effort with others to “effect change and bring about civil responsibility” that benefits everyone. 

Davis is most notably known in Tarrant County for being among a group of attorneys who filed lawsuits against the Fort Worth and Mansfield school districts in the 1950s to desegregate and integrate student populations in schools. The litigation included the integration of teaching and administrative staffs and the election of board trustees by single-member districts.

In 1983, Texas Gov. Mark White appointed him judge to the Tarrant County Criminal District Court No. 1, making Davis only the second Black person in the county to serve as a district judge. He presided as a district judge and a visiting district judge for more than two decades. Judge Davis has been recognized as the oldest tenured Black judge in Texas.

Davis was born in 1924 in Wilton, Arkansas. He praises his parents for his appreciation of education. He said his desire to practice law was sparked in high school by Arkansas attorney Scipio A. Jones, who was best known for defending 12 black men convicted and sentenced to death for killing a white man during the 1919 Elaine Race Massacre. The case ended with the men being released from jail. 

Upon graduating high school in 1942, Judge Davis enrolled in college. In 1949, he graduated from HBCU Howard Law School and returned to Arkansas, where he was admitted to the Bar and joined a firm as an associate attorney.       

A desire to practice in a larger community led him to Texas in 1952. A year later, he passed the Texas Bar, and in 1954 he was drafted into the U.S. Army. After serving his country, Judge Davis began practicing law in Fort Worth. For multiple years, he served as a lawyer for the Fort Worth NAACP chapter. He fought in the courtrooms for equality in the workplace, housing, and education. 

Throughout his career, he established Tarrant County’s First Intervention Drug Court and the Fort Worth Black Lawyer Association, which was renamed the L. Clifford Davis Legal Association.  In 2023, local attorney Bobbie Edmonds wrote and published a book chronicling the judge’s life called “I Want to be Like Him: The Life and Accomplishments of a Remarkable Man; Award-Winning Retired Senior Judge L. Clifford Davis.”

The Fort Worth ISD honored Judge Davis in 2002 when it opened the doors to a school bearing his name – L. Clifford Davis Elementary School – located at 4300 Campus Drive. Inside the school is an original painting by renowned artist and FWISD alumnus Sedrick Huckaby. Inscribed on it is Davis’ motto: “Education – [the] pathway to a world of opportunity.”  

“I’d like for that to be a theme that’s deeply instilled in the thinking of all of the students of all generations,” Judge Davis said. “The more education you have, the more opportunities you have to show your talents that work for the general welfare of the total community.”

Education, he said, is the key to unlocking your potential and talents, and with those talents, one has an opportunity to impact their community.