Lloyd Davis, First Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the MLK Center on Nonviolent Social Change

By Shannon Burrell, Senior Processing Assistant, Amistad Research Center

“Working for Freedom: Documenting Civil Rights Organizations” is a collaborative project between Emory University's Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library, The Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, The Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, and The Robert W. Woodruff Library of Atlanta University Center to uncover and make available previously hidden collections documenting the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta and New Orleans. The project is administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources with funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Each organization regularly contributes blog posts about their progress.

Lloyd Davis (1928-2007) was a proponent of equal opportunities, a civil rights activist, and a fair housing advocate. Davis served as the first vice president and chief operating officer of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and was a longtime senior adviser for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

After graduating from Chicago's Tilden Technical High School in 1946, Davis enlisted in the United States Army. He was assigned to the 6th Armed Division at Fort Leonard, Missouri, where he was responsible for the administration of five companies, the supervision of a staff of non-commissioned officers, and the administration of the first program of racial integration at Fort Leonard.

Shortly after graduating from De Paul University, Davis enrolled in graduate school at Loyola University of Chicago in 1958. After graduating from Loyola, he accepted a position as Assistant Director of the New Haven Redevelopment Agency. He also served as the Director of the Dixwell Redevelopment and Renewal Project; the project mission was to relocate 928 families and demolish and renovate 382 structures in New Haven, Connecticut. Davis began his career with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1965 as an Intergroup Relations Specialist. His primary duties included the selection and planning of urban renewal areas, as well as determining the impact of urban renewal projects on cities.

In 1979, Davis became the first vice president and chief operating officer of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, which had been founded by Coretta Scott King in 1968. In this capacity, Davis helped plan the building of the Martin Luther King Historic Site and lobbied Congress to establish the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday, which was celebrated for the first time in 1986. Davis also created a federal commission to promote, oversee, and raise money for the King Holiday.

The Amistad Research Center has started processing the Davis papers under a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources. This collection reflects Davis’ work as a housing advocate and documents his tenure as the chief operating officer of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. The papers include correspondence, photographs, programs, pamphlets, and biographical information.