February 14, 2020
The National Society of Black Physicists honors Dr. James Davenport. Dr. Davenport was the chair of the physics department at Virginia State University for over thirty years, establishing a legacy of educational and academic excellence at the University.
James Davenport was born in 1938 in Union Springs, Alabama. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education at Tuskegee University. He earned his masters degree and Ph.D. in physics from Howard University.In 1968, Dr. Davenport accepted a position at Virginia State as the head of the physics department where he served until 2003. During his time there, he was a vital part of research conducted at Virginia State for NASA, including work in both medium energy physics and muon spin rotation studies of condensed matter. He also studied radiation damage in solar-cell materials with support from NASA. Additionally, from summer 1974 until summer 2014, he worked with the Fermi National Accelerator Lab (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois alongside Nobel Laureate and fellow physicist Leon Max Lederman. In addition to his duties at Virginia State, Dr. Davenport was the first secretary-treasurer of the National Society of Black Physicists and a longtime supporter of the organization.
Legacy - Physics Department at Virginia State University
Dr. Davenport principal contribution to physics has been in the field of education. Under his leadership the research component of Virginia State’s physics department flourished. Dr. Davenport strongly emphasized teaching and mentorship during his career at Virginia State University. He taught first courses for physics majors in an effort to prevent people from dropping science as a major, an unusual practice for department chairs. This practice allowed him to inspire confidence in his students while providing a challenging curriculum for the first year students. Many of this students have established outstanding academic and professional careers.