Delos Davis

Image: Delos Davis, Canada's first Black lawyer

Born to enslaved Africans in Maryland, Delos Davis was raised in Colchester Township, near Windsor, Ontario, after his family sought their freedom using the Underground Railroad to reach Canada. He worked as a teacher, and then chose to study law in Windsor. After his marriage and move to Amherstburg, he qualified to practise as a notary public by 1873. Prevailing racist attitudes prevented him from finding a lawyer to work with to gain further experience. So determined was Davis to become a lawyer, that he convinced his local government representative (MPP), William Balfour, to introduce a special law that would permit him to act as a lawyer if he passed the test administered by the Law Society of Upper Canada. Balfour was able to introduce this act, and a second special request so that Davis could become a barrister. Davis was the first Canadian Black lawyer to be allowed to practise as a solicitor by 1885 and a barrister by 1886, after years of struggle, through an act of Provincial Parliament. He was likely the first Black person appointed as a King's Counsel in Canada in 1910.

Delos Rogest Davis
A brief biography of Delos Rogest Davis, first Black lawyer in Canada. A University of Western Ontario website.

Delos Rogest Davis
Detailed biography of the first Black Canadian lawyer Delos Rogest Davis. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.

Delos Rogest Davis
Scroll down the page for an article about Delos Rogest Davis, written by one of his desendents. From The Talking Drum newsletter.

History Will Judge
A paper about the historic battle against racial intolerance and segregation in Canadian society. By Professor Constance Backhouse. From the website for the Law Society of Upper Canada.