Davenport, Harbert (1882–1957)

By: Wortham Davenport and Harbert Davenport

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: June 22, 2019

Harbert Davenport, lawyer and historian, was born in Eastland, Texas, on October 19, 1882, the son of O. H. and Elizabeth (Merril) Davenport. In 1904 he married Elizabeth Pettit; they had two sons. After living in Rusk for two years, the family resided in Austin from 1906 to 1908, when Davenport received an LL.B. from the University of Texas. He practiced law in Anahuac until 1912, the year he established permanent residence in Brownsville, where he was a law associate of Judge James B. Wells, Jr. During World War I Davenport became a second lieutenant in the air corps. He was recognized as an authority on southwestern land and water law and on Spanish and Mexican law as it applied to Texas. Concerned with procuring needed water legislation for the Rio Grande valley, Davenport wrote "The Texas Law on Flowing Waters as Applied to Irrigation from the Lower Rio Grande." One of his important legal cases involved the disputed title to Padre Island. In 1944 the state Supreme Court decided the case in favor of the descendants of Padre Nicolás Ballí, who had received the original land grant from the Spanish government in 1800. As a historian, Davenport was particularly interested in early Spanish expeditions, personnel of the Goliad campaigns, and the history of the lower Rio Grande area. He contributed several articles to the Southwestern Historical Quarterly. From 1922 to 1955 he was a member of the executive council of the Texas State Historical Association, and from 1939 to 1942 he was president of the association. He also served as a member of the Brownsville school board from 1924 to 1932 and contributed to the American Legion and other civic organizations. He died on February 23, 1957, and was buried in Buena Vista Cemetery, Brownsville.

Brownsville Herald, February 24, 25, 1957.


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • Land Law and Real Estate Law

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

Wortham Davenport and Harbert Davenport, “Davenport, Harbert,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 19, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/davenport-harbert.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 22, 2019