In 1968, Walter Conaway Davenport was part of the Honor Guard for the casket of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while it lay in state before the funeral. The man represented much more than just the Civil Rights movement and the struggles of African Americans in the United States—to Davenport, Dr. King was an inspiration and a mentor, a fraternity brother, a fellow Morehouse College graduate, and an individual of like mind.
“He graduated from Morehouse College,” Davenport said. “We got to know him, and when he was assassinated, that really affected me. As I reflect back, I am reminded that a person is remembered not for his fame or wealth, but for his character, integrity, and reputation.”
During this somber occasion, Davenport became even more determined to make sure that the life he led was influential, and that he gave back in service in any way that he could.
Fast forward more than three decades, and that same college student was elected to one of the most prominent positions in the CPA regulatory profession. In November 2014, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) announced NCACPA member Walter Conaway Davenport, CPA, of Raleigh, as chair of its 2014–15 Board of Directors.
Prior to being named chair, Davenport served as NASBA’s 2013–14 vice chair, and as president, vice president, and secretary/treasurer of the North Carolina State Board of CPA Examiners, among many other professional, civic, and social organizations including AICPA and NCACPA.
During his inauguration speech titled “Embracing the Future Without Seeing It,” Davenport challenged NASBA and the various state boards of accountancy to consider three crucial areas which will continue to shape the profession: enforcing board rules, education for optimization, and engaging diverse talent. These areas were not thought of arbitrarily, but were instead brought to mind after decades of experience in the profession.
One of the highest honors of his career, Davenport said, was being appointed chair of NASBA.
“An added surprise after my inaugural address was receiving the Order of the Long Leaf Pine presented on behalf of the governor by Nathan Garrett and the members of the North Carolina State Board of CPA Examiners.”
The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest honor bestowed by the state of North Carolina, honors persons who have a proven record of service to the state of North Carolina.
But being elected as chair of NASBA was a realization of a dream that Davenport held for more than a decade. “I have been in NASBA since 2003. I was active on many board committees and I made a run for vice chair three times. The third time was the charm, and it was truly an honor when I was elected. I knew I had worked for it for a very long time, and I was honored to have been nominated. In the 107 year history of NASBA, there have only been two African Americans leading the board.”
Since first being appointed chair in November 2014, Davenport has busied himself with efforts to support state boards, increase diversity in the profession, enhance the relevancy of NASBA and state boards of accountancy in the regulatory arena, and enhance education. Although he is retired from the firm, that small detail has not slowed him down one bit.
“I am flunking retirement!” Davenport said with a laugh. “When you retire, you need another plan, and my father always said ‘make sure you have a reason to get up in the morning.’ This is really another career for me, and I find it really fulfilling. I am proud I am chair of NASBA. I am proud that I was president of the North Carolina State Board of CPA Examiners for three years. I am proud people trusted me enough to put me in leadership roles, and I haven’t failed them. I sit on some great boards, and I always say ‘you never know what is around the bend.’”
Aside from his dedication to the CPA profession, Davenport is dedicated to CPAs themselves.
“The CPA designation comes with trust and skills, but what I want is for CPAs to be more involved in the community,” he said. “I have known CPAs who were scared to retire, because they didn’t know what they would do once they did. That is a misuse of a person’s seasoned years. There is life after CPA, whether in public accounting or industry! Someday you will have to retire, and one day you will have time to follow your passions.”