Holt Cemetery, New Orleans
Honestly, the more I dig into the question of where Negro League All-Star and NOLA native Lloyd “Ducky” Davenport is buried, the more stymied and, frankly, the more bummed I get.
Every new piece of information I pick up just frustrates, confuses and/or dismays me, and there’s been so many of them flowing in that it’s hard to know where to begin here. So let’s start with this …
My colleague and mentor Gary Ashwill at Agate Type emailed me after my first post on Ducky and asked me, among other things, from where the “established” birth and death dates for Davenport came. Those dates, according to multiple online sources are Oct. 28, 1911, and September 1985 (no exact date).
When I thought about it, I really didn’t know how those dates were established. In fact, the only record I could find of any document properly fitting this Lloyd Davenport’s birthday was a airline passenger manifest that gave it as Aug. 20, 1911, a more-than-two-month discrepancy from what’s been “established.” I’ve found no draft card, no death record … nothing like that for a person fitting Ducky’s description.
But while fumbling around ancestry.com, I think I’ve finally found where those dates came from — a Social Security death index for a man with those exact same dates named … George Davenport. The record states that his SSN was issued in Illinois, which would make sense given that Davenport played a couple years for the Chicago American Giants.
But George Davenport? What?!?!?!
I gave this info to Gary via email, and he responded that while he’s come across numerous cases of misidentification of people by Social Security and other databases, but rarely an instance when the first name is completely different.
Upon further review, I suppose it’s not totally beyond the bounds of reason that Lloyd was given the misnomer of George by the government — I’ve gathered, through Census and other records, that George was the name of Ducky’s paternal grandfather, who was born in Mississippi in about 1852, moved to New Orleans (where he toiled, I believed, as a porter) and died in January 1910.
But Social Security’s apparent flub might not be the only time Ducky was misidentified by the powers that be. In September 1939, when NOLA Negro Leagues promoter and executive extraordinaire Allen Page was putting together his first North-South All-Star game, the Times-Picayune listed, in really tiny type, the lineups for the two teams. One of the outfielders was stated as “Walter Davenport, who batted .315 with the Memphis Red Sox, a native of New Orleans …”
Umm, no, T-P, that’s Lloyd Davenport, not Walter. Doy. I’m pretty sure of that, because Ducky did play for the Red Sox in ’39.
But I think I know from where the mainstream — and, in the 1930s, fairly racist — paper got that name. Walter Davenport was Ducky’s father’s name. Walter Davenport was born in 1884, according to Census records and his World War I draft card. I haven’t been able to pin down a death date yet.
But wait! Even more confusion! Because another one of Walter’s sons — and therefore, Lloyd’s brother — was named Walter Davenport Jr., who was born in 1906 and died in 1948, according to Social Security and death records. However, what I think is Walter Jr.’s WWII draft card lists a birth date of June 30, 1909.
But regardless, I’ve found no record that Walter Jr. ever played pro ball.
Also complicating matters is that there appears to be another African-American Davenport family, including a Walter Davenport, existing in New Orleans at the same time on a parallel track. I think I’ve followed the correct Davenport familial line by matching up city directory addresses and other documents, but I’m certainly not ready to rule out a connection between the two Davenport families.
While all this name confusion has been unfolding, I’ve done a couple other things to see if I can find Lloyd Davenport in death. One was to follow up the lead given by a 1994 newspaper article that states he died in 1988, not 1985. As mentioned before, the online archives for the New Orleans Times-Picayune and other mainstream papers don’t report any deaths of a Lloyd Davenport in 1988.
So I tried the Louisiana Weekly, the local African-American paper. I went through every single issue in 1988. The hard copies. By hand. Had fingers covered in ink.
But I found nothing, zip, nada, zero. So there goes that idea.
Then I called the offices of Holt Cemetery back. Holt is one of the city’s biggest burial grounds for the local indigent, a so called potter’s field. Several members of Lloyd Davenport’s family, including his parents Walter Sr. and Rody, are interred there.
Given the revelation of the SSA’s seeming misidentification of Ducky’s name upon his death, I asked a staffer at Holt — which is owned by the city of New Orleans — if there was a record of any Davenports buried there anytime in 1985.
But I asked her a couple other questions as well, and the answers depressed me even further. I posed if there are any sort of “family plots” at Holt. She said no, not really. Then I asked if the graves in the cemetery are marked are unmarked.
She said that in all likelihood, they’re unmarked.
There’s also indications that Lloyd Davenport could very well have been buried there, though, based on a few court records I’ve found in newspaper databases that indicate he had some financial trouble later in life.
In June 1961, the Aetna Acceptance Corp. received a roughly $550 judgment against him in First City Court, while in January 1967, Home Finance Services received a roughly $330 judgment against Lloyd in First City Court.
Those court records also seem to indicate that Ducky did live, and quite possibly die, in his hometown instead of somewhere else, which helps firm things up in terms of place of death.
One final thing … In my previous post I discussed how one of Ducky’s grand-nephews, Roy Hopkins Davenport, died of a gunshot wound a half-block away from his father’s, Alvin Davenport Jr.’s, home in Gert Town in August 2005.
After I wrote that post, I was reminded that Katrina happened that month, but Roy’s death occurred a couple weeks before the storm came. But that still left open the details of that death, because the Times-Picayune didn’t cover it beyond a brief obituary.
So I asked my buddy, David Hammer, at WWL TV, to see what archival reportage the station might, and David and his supervisor, Dominic Massa — many thanks to both, btw — did find coverage of the death …
It seems that between 11:30 p.m. Aug. 15 and 6 a.m. the next morning, there were actually four murders in the city, a shocking spate of violence. The final one of the four was Roy Hopkins Davenport’s. According to the WWL reports, 28-year-old Roy was allegedly shot by 23-year-old Michael Jackson (yes, that appears to be his real name), who was being sought by police. Roy died at the scene on the 7200 block of Fig Street and was, as his published obituary stated, buried in Holt Cemetery.
That’s all the details that were in the TV reports, so I still don’t know about a motive or what happened to Jackson. But we know now that one of Ducky Davenport’s descendants was murdered, an event that only adds to the entire aura of gloom over Ducky’s story and the search for his burial location.
I’ll keep doing more digging, but as stated in my last post, it’s looking more and more likely that the only way to solve this mystery is by contacting people who might be living relatives of the great, and mysterious, Lloyd “Ducky” Davenport. And again, if anyone might have any information or clues that could held solve this mystery, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.