New NBA President: A Crusade for Equality in Law Schools and Firms; Houston Attorney Is 3rd Woman to Head Black Bar Group

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FOR most of Houston-bred Algenita Scott Davis' early life she wanted to be a mathematician, however, a friend at Howard University convinced her to go into law. Today, the former math whiz is the third woman to head the National Bar Association, the Black lawyers' bar group. But she still has a keen eye for numbers, particularly where equity is concerned.

"There are an estimated 20,000 to 22,000 African-American lawyers in the U.S.," Davis says. "If we were just given a fair shot we would be in more corporations, yet our largest firms do not have fair numbers. The largest firms have one or two of us out of some 400-plus attorneys."

As head of the lawyers group that presently represents a little more than half of all Blacks practicing law in the United States, Davis definitely wants to see racial imbalances corrected in law firms. However, she is just as concerned that more Blacks be given the opportunity to become lawyers. "Black lawyers represent less than 3 percent of all attorneys," she says. "We need more inner-city law schools, and as a bar association we need to make sure we are doing everything we can to provide and keep avenues open."

Davis' philosophy for the NBA is a reflection of her own personal motto. At 40, this wife, mother of two and vice-president of the Texas Commerce Bancshares, lives by the credo: "Do all that you can do."

Her colleagues refer to her as "tireless," and her optimistically long list of goals for her 12-month term as president confirms it. When she was elected head of the NBA, she placed the need for increasing membership and greater visibility for the NBA at the top of her list of priorities. At 13,000, membership is up by 1,000 lawyers, but Davis' target is 3,000 more.

Service seems to b esynonymous with work for Davis. She was an active member of the NBA board 12 years before her presidency, and was recently elected chair of the Houston Downtown Management Corporation.

"The most important aspect of my background was my role in the church," says Davis in regard to the importance leadership and service have played in her life. "My mother was the pianist and my brother the organist. The people who were active always encouraged us and allowed us to lead, to speak, to participate. …