Scarborough, Laura Jewel Davis (1887–1968)

By: Katharyn Duff

Type: Biography

Published: June 1, 1995

Jewel Davis Scarborough, Abilene civic leader, was born in Pittsburg, Texas, on May 7, 1887, to Charles Gardner and Martha Alice (Lockett) Davis. She graduated from Jeff Davis College, probably an academy, at fifteen. She received two bachelor's degrees-her first, magna cum laude, from Wesleyan College, Macon, Georgia, at seventeen, and her second at twenty from the University of Texas, where she was vice president and youngest member of her class. In 1907 she moved with her family to Abilene. She was married on June 4, 1908, to Dallas Scarborough, a young Abilene attorney. The couple had two sons and two grandsons, all four of whom practiced law in Abilene. Mrs. Scarborough was prime mover in the formation of local units of the Taylor County chapter of the Equal Suffrage Association, the Taylor County Red Cross, the Abilene Young Women's Christian Association, the Taylor County Child Welfare Board, the Abilene chapter of the University of Texas Ex-Students Association, the Taylor County Tuberculosis Association, the West Texas Historical Association, and other groups. Through her efforts Taylor County got its first public-health nurse and its first home-demonstration agent. Her husband helped Abilene to acquire its first park; in 1935 Laura Scarborough established the city parks' supervised play program for children and in the 1920s the Abilene Good Government organization. She wrote the amendment to the city charter that established the Abilene Parks and Recreation Board and served many terms as head of that board.

Mrs. Scarborough, well known as a Democrat, was a delegate to the national Democratic convention in 1922, when voting was new to women. She served about twenty-five years as a precinct judge and was the first woman to be elected county party chairman. She wrote extensively on history and genealogy; her works include a four-volume family history, Southern Kith and Kin (1951). In 1964 McMurry College, where her Scarborough Genealogical Library is housed, conferred on her an honorary doctor of humane letters degree, and in 1961 the National Recreation Association named her Abilene's Mother of Recreation. She was an Episcopalian. She died in Abilene on September 2, 1968.

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Abilene Reporter-News, November 6, 1955, May 9, 1962, September 3, 1968. Hugh E. Cosby, The History of Abilene (Abilene, Texas, 1955). Katharyn Duff, Abilene . . . On Catclaw Creek: A Profile of a West Texas Town (Abilene, Texas: Reporter Publishing, 1969). Katharyn Duff, "Jewel Davis Scarborough (Mrs. Dallas Scarborough)," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 44 (1968).


  • Women
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civic Leaders

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

Katharyn Duff, “Scarborough, Laura Jewel Davis,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 27, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

June 1, 1995

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