Rudy Davenport, a former President of Springfield’s NAACP branch and the 2001 Copley First Citizen, died Saturday after a long illness. He was 89.
Davenport — who was born in Georgia, grew up in Chicago and moved to Springfield in 1966 — was a leader in dozens of community programs during his decades in the capital city.
Teresa Haley, President of the Illinois NAACP and the Springfield Branch of the organization, said Davenport will be missed and will always be remembered.
“Rudy was a gentle giant. He was a real tall, big guy, a real loving and caring person,” Haley said. “He would sit and talk to anybody and listen to anybody. He was willing to take on anyone’s causes, especially if he believed that they were being mistreated or being discriminated against.”
One of Davenport’s most significant achievements was his role in the federal lawsuit in the 1980s that led to Springfield changing its form of government. At the time, Springfield had a commission form of government that included commissioners who were elected citywide.
Davenport was among three black residents who filed suit charging the minority vote in Springfield was diluted because the city elected its council citywide. The suit was the first voting rights case taken to court in a northern city. The case led to the creation of the city’s current aldermanic form of government, where the city is split into 10 wards, and each ward elects a member of the city council.
The three original plaintiffs in the lawsuit were Davenport, Frank McNeil, who would later be elected a city alderman, and businessman William Washington. Washington died last year at the age of 84.
McNeil said Davenport was an important force in the lawsuit.
“Rudy was tireless; he was dogged. He didn’t quit,” McNeil said. ”… There is still a lot that needs to be done, but you can say there is representation from local communities now that wasn’t there before.”
In 2001, Davenport talked about the lawsuit when he was named First Citizen. He said the change in Springfield’s form of government was one of the accomplishments he was most proud of.
“Changing the form of city government was the hardest work I’ve ever done. There was more risk involved than in everything else I’ve done,” Davenport said.
Davenport also served as a founding member and president of the Springfield and Sangamon County chapter of Habitat for Humanity and has participated in many other local committees organized to improve community relations and deliberate on racial matters.
“He was very aggressive in some respects,” McNeil said. “When he took on a task, he was going to complete the task. … He was involved in all kinds of things. He didn’t stop once the voting rights suit was over. When everything was well and done, I went on to the city council and Rudy went on and dealt with Habitat for Humanity and a number of other organizations, which he became very much involved in, including the Citizens Club of Springfield.”
Ward 3 Ald. Doris Turner also talked about Davenport’s wide range of community interests.
“Whenever there was a community need, you could definitely go to him and he was always willing to immerse himself into it. He will be greatly missed,” Turner said.
Haley said she worked on several projects with Davenport, including an NAACP project called Back to School/Stay in School. The project served children who had been expelled or suspended from school and had no place to go.
“Mr. Davenport did a lot of the legwork for us to really get that program up and going,” Haley said.
Longtime friend Allan Woodson, a former Springfield alderman, said Davenport was highly articulate and principled.
“He was a tireless advocate for people or for those whose rights were being compromised or denied. He always stood up for them. I always liked his tenacious spirit. I used to tell Rudy that he had a streak of tenacity in him that I really admired,” Woodson said.
Woodson added the lawsuit was good for the entire city of Springfield.
″(The lawsuit) goes beyond making things better for a large segment of the city’s African-American population. … But it also gave every other part of our community a representative. The northeast side, the southwest side, you name it. So it went beyond just color. And that was the kind of guy (Davenport) was. He was all about representation, equality and fairness,” Woodson said.
McNeil said Davenport had been ill for the last three to four years.
“He had a number of illnesses. Declining health has sort of kept Rudy down, but whenever he could get up and go, he went,” McNeil said.
Turner said she last saw Davenport at a going-away celebration for the Rev. Robert Freeman at Grace United Methodist Church last year.
“He was in a wheelchair when he came in. The whole church lit up because they were so excited he was able to come and participate,” Turner said.
Turner added one of Davenport’s joys was singing bass in a church a cappella group, Men of Grace.
Davenport retired as an internal auditor for the state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in 1989. He also served in the Korean War.
Ruby Funeral Service & Chapel, 1520 E. Washington St., is handling arrangements. As of Sunday evening, a full obituary was not yet available on Ruby’s website.
NAACP, ILACP make Historic Announcement about 10 Shared Principles of Interaction
Affirmation of SHARED PRINCIPLES
Pictures from Event Posted on Facebook
Illinois NAACP State Conference of Branches and
National Organization of Black Law Enforcement
Thank you, Chief Mitchell Davis, for inviting members of Illinois NAACP State Conference of Branches to attend the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement (NOBLE) Meeting in Chicago Metropolitan Chapter-Region IV. It was very informative.
It was a pleasure to meet NOBLE’s National President Clarence Cox III. Thank you NOBLE for signing on to the 10 Principles signed by the Illinois NAACP State Conference and the Illinois Chiefs of Police. This is a living document that will Continue to Grow!
If you have ever been discriminated against or passed over for a promotion like I️ have. I️ am asking you to please support HJR0086.
I️ attended conference recently and more than 80% of Minorities said that they have been discriminated against and/or passed over for a promotion.
Therefore, we must support this House Joint Resolution HJR0086 .
Local groups file complaint against CWLP over coal ash
Posted Sep 27, 2017 at 2:46 PM Updated Sep 27, 2017 at 7:12 PM
The Sangamon Valley Group of the Sierra Club and two other local organizations are asking the Illinois Pollution Control Board to order City Water, Light and Power to clean up contaminated groundwater at its coal ash storage site near the Dallman power plant.
The Sierra Club, the NAACP and the Prairie Rivers Network filed a complaint against CWLP with the Pollution Control Board Wednesday. The complaint states that there have been 623 instances of self-reported groundwater violations at the coal ash site since 2010. These include violations for elevated levels of arsenic, lead, boron, chromium, manganese iron and other pollutants.
Andrew Rehn, water resource engineer at Prairie Rivers Network, was one of the people who spoke at a noon press conference to announce the filing. The press conference was held on the 12th floor of the Crown Plaza Hotel, 3000 S. Dirksen Parkway, which provided an aerial view of the coal ash site on the opposite side of Interstate 55.
Rehn explained that coal ash is a by-product of coal-fired power plants.
“There is a groundwater problem in the coal ash ponds at CWLP’s Dallman power plant,” Rehn said. ”…These coal ash ponds are unlined, which means the ash has no barrier between it and the groundwater. It sits directly on the ground, meaning that any water that is there can saturate the ash, and contaminates from the ash can spread into the groundwater. From there, this groundwater can migrate offsite and contaminate groundwater, as well as come up through the ground and into places like Sugar Creek where there could be contamination as well.”
Amber Sabin, spokeswoman for CWLP, said the utility was unable to comment on the complaint because it had just been filed.
The complaint includes results from tests conducted by CWLP at monitoring wells at the site since 2010. In one instance in November 2016, arsenic was found to be 22 times the groundwater standard, the complaint said.
Rehn said the tests also revealed boron to be 9 times the accepted standard, iron was at 12 times the accepted standard and manganese was 54 times the standard.
“We’re filing this complaint because something needs to be done about the persistent and ongoing groundwater contamination at this site,” Rehn said. “And, Springfield needs to start thinking about the future. The coal ash should never have been put where it is. It is in the floodplain and directly adjacent to water bodies. This is no place to leave coal ash forever. Sooner or later, Springfield is going to have to do something about this coal ash.”
Teresa Haley, president of the state and Springfield Branch of the NAACP, said her group was pleased to join the Sierra Club and Prairie Rivers Network in filing the complaint.
“We are most concerned about what is happening environmentally,” Haley said. “We see it as a social justice issue, we see it as a civil rights issue.”
Scott Gauvin, chair of the Sangamon Valley Group of the Sierra Club, said they have had meetings with CWLP and Mayor Jim Langfelder on the coal ash issue.
“The answer we usually get from CWLP is that it’s not drinking water so there’s nothing to worry about,” Gauvin said. “The fact remains that there are state regulations, there are federal regulations and they are there for a reason. CWLP is showing us, 623 times, that they are violating state regulations.”
In addition to groundwater, coal ash can also contaminate the air, Gauvin said.
“Anytime you move it from one location to another, it is going to be airborne. It is something that is contaminating our environment,” Gauvin said.
Sierra Club officials said the next step would be for CWLP to file a response to the complaint. At some point, a hearing will likely be held.
Specifically, the complaint asks the pollution control board to declare that CWLP has violated the Illinois Environmental Protection Act’s prohibitions on groundwater pollution at its Dallman plant and impose civil penalties.
The complaint also requests that the pollution control board order CWLP to:
* Cease and desist from causing or threatening to cause water pollution.
* Modify its coal ash and coal combustion waste disposal and storage practices so as to avoid future groundwater contamination.
* Remediate the contaminated groundwater so that it meets applicable Illinois groundwater quality standards.
–Contact John Reynolds: firstname.lastname@example.org, 788-1524, twitter.com/JohnReynoldsSJR.
Teresa Haley NAACP State President Speaks about Civil Rights in Illinois
Apr 27 2016 10:24PM
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) – At a time when police and community relations are perhaps as strained as they’ve ever been, particularly in Black communities, there is a unique social media campaign that aims to change that.
And it’s happening one picture at a time. Or more specifically, one selfie at a time.
Teresa Haley elected President of Illinois NAACP Chapter
Posted Nov 4, 2015 at 10:00 PM
New Head of Illinois NAACP Talks Future Plans
Thursday, November 12th 2015
Members of the NAACP join with the American Red Cross Home Fire Campaign and the Springfield Fire Department
to install smoke alarms in the Minority Community with the highest census track for fires in Springfield.
Members of the Divine Nine and the Back-to-School Stay-in-School Students partnered with NAACP to install free smoke detectors.
Students carried tools such as ladders and drills to designated areas to begin installing free smoke detectors in area homes.
Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016
Note: General NAACP Membership meetings are held on the First Tuesday of the Month, with the exception of July and August, at the Zion Missionary Baptist Church, 1601 East Laurel, at 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m..