Walter Conaway Davenport : Part 2

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Read Part 1 of this 2-part blog series.

A North Carolina native, Davenport was born and raised in Raleigh along with his sister. The son of two college graduates, it was always expected he would do well in school and have a successful career. But even Davenport himself could not have predicted how far he would come.

“I had no choice but to be a good student,” Davenport said. “My parents always made sure we were studious. In 1966 I graduated as salutatorian from my high school, and my ambition was to become a CPA.”

As a child, Davenport dreamed of being a doctor, but found himself gravitating toward the financial world when he heard about Nathan Garrett, CPA.

“I grew up hearing about Nathan Garrett, a black CPA from Durham, and I really hoped to meet him one day. I was always good with numbers, and when I was a freshman at Morehouse College in Atlanta, I was actually a math major. After my freshman year, I took a class from W.E. Richardson, a black CPA in Georgia. He really encouraged me to be a CPA, and with the exception of my parents, he was my only career mentor.”

In 1970, Davenport graduated from Morehouse College and began his professional career in the Atlanta office of Arthur Anderson & Co. “I was one of the first five black staff to walk through the front door of the Atlanta office in 1970,” Davenport said.

“There were five of us in this huge pool of new hires at the firm, and we only met each other on that first day. There were some people in the firm who had not yet warmed up to the idea of integration, and not everyone had bought into the idea of diversity yet. The five of us talked to each other a lot, and I stayed there until 1974. I think that shows the depth of the stamina we had against all odds facing us.”

It was his experience at his first job which truly encouraged Davenport to pursue diversity in his profession, and it became a passion which followed him throughout his entire career.

In 1975, Davenport formed a partnership with his longtime mentor, Nathan Garrett, and together they formed the firm Garrett and Davenport, CPA, PCs with a primary emphasis on providing services to not-for-profit entities. After many years and a lot of hard work, the firm became the largest and oldest minority-owned firm in North Carolina. In 1998, the firm merged into Cherry, Bekaert & Holland, LLP, now Cherry Bekaert, LLP, among the 25 largest firms in the United States. Davenport acted as an audit partner and as director of Cherry Bekaert’s nonprofit industry group in charge of the firm’s nonprofit operations. In April 2008, Davenport retired from the firm, but he did not retire from his career of service to the public and the profession.

As for his self-professed “failure” of a retirement, Davenport currently sits on the Board of Directors for the United Way of the Greater Triangle, IntraHealth International, Inc., N.C. Center for Nonprofits, and Cary Academy; is on the Board of Trustees for Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina; is a member of the Raleigh Bank Advisory Board of BB&T; and was reelected in July to the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina System. He is also the treasurer for two active local political campaigns.

“At this point in my life, I feel grateful for what I have done, the people I have come across, and for the profession. And I am looking forward to tomorrow.”