Davage, Matthew Simpson (1879–1976)

By: Walter N. Vernon

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Matthew S. Davage, black educator and Methodist churchman, the son of Rev. Samuel and Harriet (Lee) Davage, was born on June 16, 1879, in Shreveport, Louisiana. The family moved to New Orleans, where Davage attended New Orleans University (later called Dillard) and was the catcher and captain of the University Nine baseball team. He was eighteen years old and still a full-time student at New Orleans University when he began teaching school in the evening. Upon graduating from the Classical Department at New Orleans University in 1900, Davage began teaching mathematics and Latin and did postgraduate study at the University of Chicago and Columbia University. He married Alice Vera Armstead in 1904. He held the chair in math at New Orleans University and was business manager for the Southwestern Christian Advocate from 1905 to 1915. He presided over Methodist institutions of higher learning for most of his professional career. He served as president of George R. Smith College at Sedalia, Missouri, 1915–16; Haven Institute, Meridian, Mississippi, 1916–17; Samuel Huston College, Austin, Texas, 1917–20; Rust College, Holly Springs, Mississippi, 1920–24; and Clark University, Atlanta, Georgia, 1924–41.

Davage was a member of the board of trustees of eight colleges and secretary of the Department of Higher Education of the Methodist Board of Education for twelve years. From 1940 to 1952 he was director of all Methodist colleges for African Americans in the United States. He helped obtain accreditation for the colleges he served. He was also instrumental in building and stabilizing the finances of the colleges under his jurisdiction. He raised the combined operating budgets of these schools to more than $5.3 million. He was elected a member of the Methodist quadrennial General Council eleven times and served as a member of the Methodist ecumenical conferences from 1931 to 1951. He was also a member of the administrative board of the Commission on Christian Higher Education of the Association of American Colleges and held the record for the longest tenure on the Methodist Board of Publications. Davage led the movement to merge Samuel Huston and Tillotson colleges in Austin and became interim president of the new Huston-Tillotson College. He guided the transition period of the new college until his retirement in 1955. He died in a New Orleans hospital on September 20, 1976.

Austin American-Statesman, September 22, 1976. James P. Brawley, Two Centuries of Methodist Concern: Bondage, Freedom, and Education of Black People (New York: Vantage, 1974). Nolan B. Harmon, ed., The Encyclopedia of World Methodism (2 vols., Nashville: United Methodist Publishing House, 1974). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Huston-Tillotson College, Matthew S. Davage).


  • Education
  • Educators
  • Math
  • University Presidents and School Administrators
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Religion
  • Methodist

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Walter N. Vernon, “Davage, Matthew Simpson,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 24, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/davage-matthew-simpson.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: