DR. IRA P. DAVIS: Catalyst in ﬁght for civil rights, progress. PHOTO COURTESY OF INSTAGRAM
MIAMI, Fla. – The City of Miami and Miami-Dade County will honor a Black Miami community leader with a street named after him on Friday, Nov. 17 at 10 am.
Northwest 16th Street between Northwest 2nd Avenue to Northwest 3rd Avenue will be named the Dr. Ira P. Davis Street.
The designation ceremony will take place at 10 am at the Historic Black Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum, 480 NW 11th St. in Miami’s Overtown.
Davis was a central ﬁgure to most of the civil rights advancements of the African American community from the time that he arrived in the late 1930s to the time of his death in 1970.
He was born in Jacksonville in 1896, and lived in northern Florida where he attended Florida A&M College. It was during this time that he was drafted into the Army and served in the medical corps in France during WWI.
Davis served 11 months in the Army and later entered Howard University School of Dentistry where he graduated in 1929.
In 1936 he moved to Miami where he set up his dental ofﬁce in Overtown at 1036 NW 2nd Avenue. It is there that he met his future wife Louise Stirrup, the daughter of Miami pioneer E. W. F. Stirrup.
The time Davis spent in the Army allowed him to qualify as a veteran in the armed forces. In January 1937 he helped to establish the John Griffen Post for Colored Veterans of the World Wars, which later became a colored unit of the American Legions (1946). At this time he was appointed as the state’s 1st Black district commander.
It was in this organization that Davis fought for housing rights for African American veterans and other Black citizens. It was also this organization that became the catalyst that he would use to ﬁght for other rights for Black people in Miami, as part of a coalition of others such as Annie Coleman, founder of the Friendship Garden and Civic Association, and Lawson E. Thomas, an attorney who later became the ﬁrst Black judge in the South after Reconstruction.
The Rev. Culmer of Saint Agnes Episcopal Church and Captain James E. Scott were some of the individuals who would meet at the Davis home in Overtown, also known as the “Little White House,” to improve the lives of people in the community.
They were responsible for the establishment of the ﬁrst Negro police force, police precinct, courthouse and judge in the South.
Davis also played a role in the establishment of the Virginia Key Beach being assigned as a beach for Black people at a time when Blacks had no place to swim and enjoy the outdoors.
Davis was central to upgrading the housing standards for people in Miami ensuring that all homes were equipped with running water, flushable toilets and at least one sink.
Davis spearheaded the campaign to integrate the Orange Bowl and brought the Orange Blossom Classic to Miami.
Davis also worked to desegregate the golf courses. In 1955 he was instrumental in bringing the Ray Mitchell North-South Golf Tournament to Miami. The four-day tournament brought numerous celebrities and other tourists into Miami, which saw an infusion of cash into the city as a result.
Davis’ educational, professional and military experience enabled him to contribute and impact the Black community in signiﬁcant and multiple areas. His aid was sought by not only local leaders but national leaders as well.
Davis died on May 22, 1970. He was 74 years old. His only living children, Carol Henley Byrd and Iral Porter, currently reside in Miami.
The producers and researchers of Proﬁles in Black Miami, AnnMarie Henry, Christine Malcolm and Keith Moore, coordinated with Dr. Enid Pinkney of the Curtis Foundation in the research that led to the upcoming activities.
For other information contact AnnMarie Henry at 305-505-9817 or proﬁlesinblackmiami@gmail.com