BY WALTER OPINDE
On a day like this day, 5th June, 1973, Doris A. Davis occupied a place in the memories of Black History, as well as the American history, for becoming the first African-American female mayor of a major metropolitan city in the United States, Campton, in California.
On 5th June, 1973, Doris A. Davis, a 37-year-old school teacher turned into a City Council Member, was elected Mayor of the City of Compton, California, making her the first black woman mayor of a major metropolitan American city. She was the second African-American woman chief executive in the United States’ history. Focusing on problems of a soaring crime rate and high unemployment statistics in Compton, a suburb of Los Angeles, Doris, a mother of two, captured 55.4% of the votes. She defeated Douglas Dollarhide, the incumbent mayor, alongside other seven primary candidates, thereby becoming the head of the city. She served as mayor between 1973 and 1977.
During her earliest days on the job, at a meeting of the City Council of Compton, a councilman, who mistakenly referred to Doris as “Mr. Mayor.” He asked, “Your honor, we are indeed fortunate to have such a charming, attractive mayor, but tell me, how you would like us to address you?” She replied, “I have researched the matter, and I believe the proper title is ‘Madam Mayor’.” The councilman responded with a guffaw, “Madam Mayor?”, and continued, “I’m sorry Mrs. Davis, but madam has such a bad connotation; I think I’d better try to find another title for you.” Conceding that she had no qualms about how she should be addressed, the new mayor of Compton proceeded to conduct her fist council meeting with an iron hand. Apparently, Doris Davis was very accustomed to such kinds of chauvinistic innuendos and is reported to have responded in good humor to such things as a workman’s suggestion that she paint the door of her office pink, and a political opponent’s comment that “a woman’s place is at home, in the house.”
To date, Doris Davis is the only woman to have served as mayor of the City of Compton. Prior to her tenure as a mayor, she was elected for three terms and served two terms (8 years) as the Compton City Clerk, between 1965 and 1973. Doris’ initial election to the position marked another historic victory; being the first African-American and the first female City Clerk in the U.S. Her political career was preceded by and run in conjunction with life in education. With a background as an elementary schoolteacher, who taught both in Los Angeles and Chicago schools, Doris founded the Daisy Child Development Centers, a non-profit organization, in 1967. She established it to provide unwed teenage mothers with additional options, such as employment, housing, child care, and training among others. Today, Doris remains the organization’s Executive Director, serving the child development needs of over three generations of citizens in Compton, California.
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