(May 4, 1911-Dec. 21, 2003). Born in Rome, Georgia, Davenport was the first African American to become a lieutenant in the Indianapolis Police Department (IPD). Davenport began his decades-long career on the police force in 1934, following the decline of the Ku Klux Klan’s grip on Indianapolis politics.

Spurgeon Davenport (right), September 21, 1983
Credit: Indianapolis Recorder Collection, Indiana Historical Society

Far from being the first Black officer, Davenport spent his career attaining the highest ranks of any African American in the IPD. Beginning as a street patrolman in 1934, Davenport quickly proved his worth and abilities to the community and his colleagues. Davenport was assigned to the Homicide and Robbery Branch when it was first created. He led the investigation during the Sylvia Likens murder case as the IPD’s homicide chief. He earned the rank of lieutenant, then captain. By the end of his career, he reached the rank of deputy chief.

Davenport was known and widely respected within both white and Black communities. He was awarded the Judge Jerome Frank Memorial National Award for his work in exonerating a man wrongfully convicted of larceny. As deputy chief, Davenport adjusted police entrance exams to make it fairer for all applicants.

Following his retirement from IPD, Davenport served as chief of Indiana University Campus Police at Iupui. He was also named president of the Urban Public Information Center (UPIC) in 1985.

Revised February 2021
 

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