Last week, the Atlanta City Council voted to approve the renaming of East Lake Boulevard SE to Eva Davis Way. The name will be familiar to many in what’s now known as the Villages of East Lake neighborhood, as Davis was instrumental in its creation. But for others, here’s a brief history about the late community leader.
Eva Belle Favors Davis was among the earliest residents of East Lake Meadows — a notoriously crime-plagued Atlanta Housing Authority project — when she moved in with her children shortly after it opened in 1971.
"Soon she was elected president of its tenants association," said her obituary in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "She led rent strikes against the AHA to win improvements such as better outdoor lighting, more sidewalks and a day care center. She persevered in her mission of community upgrade even as dope peddlers turned the housing project into a war zone with the infamous nickname of 'Little Vietnam.'"
Eva Davis, then president of the East Lake Meadows Residents' Association, showed the areas where construction was planned. Some of the old units can be seen behind her. This photo was made Monday, Feb. 23, 1998 at the East Lake Meadows apartments.
During a tenant meeting in 1996, Davis rallied the community to vote overwhelmingly in favor of the redevelopment — despite “a line of drug dealers ... who were intent on keeping the status quo” standing at the back of the room as a show of intimidation, according to her AJC obit. In that same article, former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin doubted the redevelopment would have been possible without Davis.
With the support of the AHA and developer Tom Cousins, the East Lake community began the long, expensive redevelopment project, gaining a charter school, a YMCA and a PGA championship course in the process.
During the Civil Rights Movement, Davis helped Reverend Joseph Boone hold voter registration drives and worked with candidates such as former President Jimmy Carter, U.S. Rep. John Lewis and former mayors Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young, a city press release said.
The community advocate died of complications of ovarian cancer on June 5, 2012 at her Villages at East Lake home, at the age of 76. She was survived by three daughters, five sons, 32 grandchildren and 33 great-grandchildren.
The ordinance to rename the road was proposed by Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong. City Council is setting up a date for the renaming, a spokesman said Tuesday.
I am a staff writer with the AJC and a lover of Atlanta, my adopted home since moving to Georgia from Florida in late 2011. To submit “Actual Factual” questions, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, @BeccaJGGodwin on Twitter or via the form below. Thanks for reading.
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