Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from A-E

Davis, Albert Porter(1890–1976) - Physician, surgeon, entrepreneur, Earns Pilot’s License, Chronology, Builds Mobile Home Park

kansas city african american

Prominent physician, surgeon, and entrepreneur, Albert Porter Davis was born on November 13, 1890 in Palestine, Texas, to Louisa Craven and William W. Davis, a white physician. After graduating from high school, Davis enrolled in Meharry Medical College, a historically black college established after the Civil War in Nashville, Tennessee. It offered great opportunities for African Americans aspiring to be doctors because white medical schools rarely accepted African American students. African American doctors were much needed because African Americans were often denied treatment by white doctors and hospitals.

After receiving his medical degree in 1913, Davis moved to Kansas City where he began his family practice in medicine and surgery. He continued his studies at Sumner Junior College and at the University of Kansas. He took courses that increased his knowledge in the medical field and pursued courses in other areas as well. Davis also came to the aid of unwed mothers. In 1920, he founded the Davis Maternity Sanitarium for Unwed Mothers. The sanitarium provided a range of services, including education, prenatal care, and adoption assistance if requested. The sanitarium remained in operation for over twenty years.

Davis was a man of many talents. He served as lieutenant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps Reserve during World War I, wrote music, became a fan of jazz, and in 1921, he starred in a five-reel silent black and white film, The Lure of a Woman , the first black film to be produced in Kansas City. Three of the five reels of film are held in the George P. Johnson Collection at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Earns Pilot’s License

Davis also made time for a social life. On September 1, 1926, he married Hazel White, a schoolteacher. Shortly after the marriage, Davis began taking flying lessons from a French instructor. In those days it was difficult to find someone who was willing to teach African Americans. Later, Davis took flying lessons at the Porter-field Flying School at the Old Richards Air Field in Kansas City, Missouri. On May 16, 1928, Davis received his license to fly. On the same day, he purchased his first plane, an American Eagle, built by Ed Porterfield, an early fan of aviation. Davis became one of the earliest persons, of any race, to be licensed. The United States Department of Commerce began licensing pilots in 1926, before that the military belief was that blacks were not intelligent enough to fly.

In 1929, Davis flew his plane to Yackey Checkerboard Airfield, just outside Chicago, to attend the National Airmen’s Association of America (NAAA), the first national aviation meet of Negro flyers. He was the only pilot out of seven that was not from Chicago. On his return home, his plane crashed into a tree. Davis was uninjured, but he had no way to get his plane home. He bought a pickup truck, loaded the damaged plane onto it, and hauled it back to Kansas City.

After the crash, Davis continued to fly for pleasure, attending speaking engagements and political rallies. He often had to land in cow pastures and wheat fields because there were few landing strips. In 1935, Davis bought his second plane, a Porterfield Cabin Monoplane.

The field of aviation began to expand for African Americans. In January 1939, a little over a decade after Davis received his license, a list was issued of eighty-one African American pilots. Of those named, forty-six were students. Approximately fifty others had allowed their license to expire.

Chronology

1890

Born in Palestine, Texas on November 13

1913

Graduates from Meharry College

1920

Founds Davis Maternity Sanitarium for Unwed Mothers

1921

Stars in The Lure of a Woman

1926

Marries schoolteacher, Hazel White

1927

Founds Red Top Taxicab Company and the Service Finance Corporation

1928

Receives pilots license and purchases first plane, an American Eagle

1929

Attends first National Airmen’s Association of America in Chicago; crashes plane on return trip from Chicago

1935

Purchases second plane, Porterfield Cabin Monoplane

1939

Receives the Dwight H. Green trophy

1940

Participates in the renovation of Kansas City Municipal Airport

1944–45

Keynote speaker at NAACP convention in Junction City, Kansas

1950

Serves as deputy coroner of Wyandotte County

1953

Elected president of National Medical Association; builds Kansas Trailer Village

1956

Heads Wyandotte County Mobile Homes Association

1976

Dies in Kansas City, Kansas on September 1

1999

His home “Castle Rock” is given Historic Landmark status

Although Davis was an active pilot and participated in many aviation activities, his main role was that of a physician. Because he spoke Spanish he could easily serve Mexican immigrants. For a while, Davis kept an office in two states, Missouri and Kansas. Eventually, he closed his office in Missouri.

In 1926, Davis was appointed assistant health director in Kansas City. He became the first African American to be assigned to that post, a position he held until 1932. Davis also served on the staffs at Douglass Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas, and Wheatley-Provident Hospital no. 2 in Kansas City, Missouri.

In addition to his medical career and aviation activities, Davis was involved in numerous entrepreneurial endeavors. In 1927, he founded the Service Finance Corporation, a savings and loan association, and the Red Top Taxicab Company. Both were the first such African American-owned institutions of their kind in Kansas.

On August 25-27, 1939, the NAAA held a conference to which all “Race Flyers” were invited. The NAAA’s aim was to provide a chance for African American pilots to get to know each other and discuss common problems. Out of the approximately forty to fifty pilots attending the conference, six flew to Chicago in their own planes, an astonishing number for African American pilots for the period. At the conference, Davis was awarded the Dwight H. Green Trophy for having contributed the most to the advancement of aviation during 1938. The trophy was named for a Republican politician and former World War I veteran who served as an army aviator and later served as governor of Illinois from 1941 to 1949. Davis was also elected one of the seven vice presidents of the NAAA. They had planned to establish local chapters. Davis also invited them to hold the 1940 conference in Kansas City. This meeting was a rare opportunity for African American pilots to gather in a national body such as this one.

Davis had the opportunity to fly in his open cockpit Porterfield monoplane as part of the festivities for the renovation of the Kansas City Municipal Airport in January 1940. His passenger was his wife, who was eight months pregnant with their daughter. On February 18, 1940, their daughter, A. Portia, was born. The following year, Davis purchased his third plane, a Porterfield Columbia 75c. By 1950, he had logged 2,200 flying hours over the twenty-three years he had spent flying since he received his license. Later, he acquired a fourth plane, a Navion. He flew it eight to ten times a month, even making professional calls at times.

Builds Mobile Home Park

Davis’s reputation grew as did his public service. Davis served as deputy coroner of the Wyandotte County from 1950 to 1952. The following year he was elected president of the National Medical Association, which was established by black doctors in 1895 because African Americans were denied membership in the American Medical Association. The same year, Davis engaged in additional entrepreneurial undertakings. He built the Kansas Trailer Village, a mobile home park. He bought a plot of land that ran through highways 40, 24, and 73 for $47,000. The former owner of the land gave him the idea of creating a trailer village. Davis gave it a try and the idea proved to be successful. The land held fifty spaces for permanent and short-term tenants. It offered its tenants such amenities as sidewalks, patios, a laundromat, and much more. All of the tenants in the Kansas Trailer Village were white. When Davis realized the financial benefits of owning a mobile home park, he recommended that blacks start their own mobile home park. In 1956, Davis began serving as head of the Wyandotte County Mobile Homes Association, an all-white group. The same year, he served as the vice-president of the local branch of the NAACP.

In 1969, Davis’ health began to decline. He died on September 1, 1976 at the age of 85. In March of 1999, “Castle Rock,” Davis’ home at 852 Washington Boulevard in Kansas City, was given Historic Landmark status in Wyandotte County, Kansas City, and Kansas. “Castle Rock” was cited for having a high integrity of design, setting, association, and workmanship. The house had unusual modern features, such as phone jacks throughout the home, and central heating, amongst other conveniences. The continued occupancy of Davis’ family in “Castle Rock” has contributed to its preservation.

Artifacts relating to Davis’ life as an aviator, such as a propeller from one of his planes that has been restored, his logbook, and other memorabilia can be found at the Kansas City Jazz Museum.

Davis, Angela [next] [back] Davidson, Arthur - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Chronology: Arthur Davidson, Social and Economic Impact

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or