Davy Johnson Roundtree, Pioneering Lawyer, Dies At 104

By Clyde Hughes

Dovey Johnson Roundtree, an attorney who won important battles for race and gender equality in the military, transportation and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, died Monday in Charlotte, North Carolina, at 104, the Charlotte Observer reported.

In 1955, Roundtree’s client Sarah Keys won a case with the Interstate Commerce Commission after she refused to give up her seat for a white Marine, the Observer said. The case led to the ICC voting to end “separate but equal” in interstate busing and pathed the way for the Freedom Riders to test that ruling through the South, the newspaper said.

She graduated from all-black Spelman College, and three years later she was recruited by famed activist Mary McLeod Bethune to become one of the first black women to train as officers in the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, the Observer said.

Roundtree was sent to recruit other black servicewomen in the South and outpaced her supervisors’ expectations, the newspaper said.

dovey“She was a force in changing the military before it was desegregated in 1948,” biographer Katie McCabe told the Observer. “She was a pioneer. She took the brunt of it, right in the gut, in an era when the military didn’t want black men – and they didn’t want women at all.”


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