Rebecca S. Jones
African-American News & Issues
HOUSTON – Named in 1865 and settled primarily by African-American freedmen is Houston’s 5th Ward segment of the city. Phyllis Wheatley, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Barbara Jordan, Mickey Leland, Bert L. Long Jr., George Foreman, Beneva Williams and James Prince are amidst only a snippet of the individuals whose gifts and talents the historically Black community has produced. As such, the story of Ms. Algenita Scott-Davis is only a continuance of the remarkable contributions made by members originating from the renowned edition that is located north of Buffalo Bayou and east of Jensen Drive. Her mother, the late Althea Lewis Scott was a well educated local teacher of 37 years and respected musician who was accomplished with a Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degree; from The Houston College for Negroes (currently, Texas Southern University). Her father, C.B. Scott was a business owner who owned and operated an auto garage and cab company in 5th Ward. He later experienced the burdensome experience of eminent domain which confiscated the family home and business for the purpose of expanding E.O. Smith Jr. High School. As with anyone born into the era of segregation and discrimination Algenita experienced the perils associated with being labeled “colored”. However, the circumstances geared toward her environment yielded no little motivation for her. At an early age, she recognized that she could make a difference in not only her community but others like it; and that fact equipped her with the strength and agility to do just that.
Algenita Scott-Davis graduated from Phyllis Wheatley High School mirroring the steps of her mother and grandmother. After graduating, she along with Shirley Fobbs (Valedictorian of her graduating class) flew to Washington D.C. where they attended Howard University together. In a foreign land, the ambitious Algenita only knew a handful of people; Shirley who accompanied her, Louis Myer Jr. former graduate of Wheatley (Min. Louis Farrakhan’s personal attorney) and a few cousins who lived in Annapolis, MD. Therefore, she was all the more driven to dedicate herself to her studies and keep current with the values and morals instilled in her by her parents. Accordingly, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in June of 1971 where her major was accounting and her minor was Economics. Three years later, she received a Doctorate of Jurisprudence from Howard University School of Law, where her concentration was Tax. Consistent with her studies, she was the recipient of several awards which complimented her outstanding academic talents during her tenure at Howard University. Upon completing her degree programs she had previously decided that she would be an ‘actuary’; an idea of which was only short-lived. For she realized that there was so much work that needed to be done and she made the decision to contribute her part as much as her knowledge and tenacity allowed her to do.
The year was 1976, when Scott-Davis and four other Black females set out to pursue a goal that was unheard of and definitely not welcomed in an era stricken with discrimination and prejudicial afflictions. “ “The Sisters in Law” – Zinetta Burney (Houston), Joan Edwards (Marshall,TX), Shelvin Lousie Hall (Chicago,IL), Haroldeen Hartsfield (Detroit,MI), and Scott-Davis combined their varied experiences, expertise and dreams to form BEHHS (Burney, Edwards, Hall, Hartsfield and Scott) , the nation’s first all African-American, all female law firm” in the heart of Acres Homes. Gulf Coast, had previously occupied a space located in the 7200 block of Wheatley Rd., but the office had closed once funding for its operation were no longer available. Determined to provide much needed services to members of the Black community the five women approached Mr. J.J. Smith, a local banking loan officer with the intention of securing the funds needed to purchase the location for their venture. Collectively, they secured the $5,000 loan needed to purchase the property and they all went to work. BEHHS was born out of the vision and joint forces of these five impetuous women. Sheila Louise Hall served as the sole full-time lawyer, while the other four would alternate shifts in the evening and on the weekends. The firm was established to provide profit-free legal services to the community. Although the intention of BEHHS were much needed and warranted there remained very little support from local ministers and churches in the area. BEHHS was conceived during a dispensation where harsh adversity was imposed on Blacks and it was even worst for aspiring Black female professionals. Nevertheless, the five women operated within the community as long as they could, but it was eventually dissolved and each partner commenced to pursuing their own individual aspirations.
Since that time, Ms. Algenita Scott-Davis has dedicated countless man hours serving the minorities, women-owned businesses and onward. So much so that space will not allow African-American News and Issues to record it all in merely one edition. In the late 1970’s, she served as a Tax Attorney for Shell Oil Company. After which she was employed by the Port of Houston Authority of Harris County as General Counsel for ten years. For over 16 years, she worked at JPMorgan Chase and Company as the Senior Vice President and Community Affairs Officer. During her employment at Chase she coordinated several initiatives for the advancement opportunities for minorities and women-owned businesses throughout the state of Texas. It was through the implementation of several measures that Scott-Davis established, that enabled groups to later incorporate diversity departments and designated employee networking and groups. In 2005, Ms. Algenita Scott-Davis accepted a position as a Visiting Professor at Texas Southern University, the alma mater of her mother. There she taught in the School of Business Administration, School of Law and School of Public Affairs.
Currently, she is the Executive Director of Houston Habitat for Humanity an organization which upholds the mission to, “work by faith to change lives and empower families by building homes in partnership with God and people from all walks of life”. “Houston Habitat has built 900 homes in Houston since 1987; it relies on donors, sponsors, volunteers and community partners to make the dream of homeownership happen for selected families.”
During her years at Habitat for Humanity 350 new affordable homes have been built for qualifying low-income families. She has presided over the development and construction of several Houston Habitat subdivisions including but not limited to: Umland Park, Milby Park and Harrel Park. She also spearheaded the organization in a project to purchase a 117 acre tract of land in Northeast Houston which will benefit 350 families. Continuing, she positioned Houston Habitat to participate in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). It was through the funding received that the organization was able to build 28 new homes in 5th Ward. Scott-Davis also led the organization’s efforts to create energy efficient homes in accordance with compliance to affordable housing guidelines. During the last seven years she has contributed a great deal to Houston Habitat. However, she will be leaving Houston Habitat for Humanity to pursue other community development interests.
Over the years, Scott-Davis has received numerous awards and honors. Her professional affiliations include licenses from the: State Bar of Texas, United States District Court of the Southern District of Texas and Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. She has also served as president over the National Bar Association; establishing Patron of NBA Limited Partnership; charter member of the National Bar Institute; Secretary of NBA Investment Corporation; Member and Board member of the State Bar of Texas; President of the Houston Lawyers Association and she served in several capacities within the Black Women Lawyers Association. Her Civil leadership includes organizations such as: the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, Greater Houston Women’s Foundations, William A. Lawson Institute, Central Houston Housing Corporation I and II, Central Houston Facilities Corporation, Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, MacGregor Area Community Development Corporation, Houston Downtown Management District, Third Ward Redevelopment Council, South Post Oak Redevelopment Authority, OST Almeda Authority, City of Houston Planning Commission, Houston Area Urban League, Nation Association for the Advancement for Colored People, Unity National Bank.
Mrs. Algenita Scott-Davis expressed in an interview that she, “feels she has a responsibility to always play a role in securing benefits for the community”. She also conveyed that she believes, “we each have a duty to develop more leaders in our communities”. She stated that she does not see her dedication to the community as ‘giving back’, but she views it as, “giving forward”. “Like the Barbara Jordan’s, Mickey Leland’s, L.H. Simpson’s and so many more in my day, we were exposed to warriors working in and for our communities”. “When I was a child, we routinely saw these people at church, school and within the community and they were role models and mentors; so it was already understood what was required of us.” Additionally, Scott-Davis stated, “Growing up in Houston, allowed me very positive identification of who I was”. African-American News&Issues salutes Ms. Algenita Scott-Davis and thanks her for the diligent service and commitment that she has rendered to the Black community and the Greater Houston area.
Mrs. Algenita Scott-Davis is happily married to Mr. Ardie Segars.