Photo: Artis Davenport/NOLA.com

The sport of track and field, residents of New Orleans, the Southern University community, and others are mourning the passing of long-time Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) track & field coach Artis Davenport II.

Davenport, 92, died at his home in Texas on Saturday, September 7.


He began coaching at SUNO in 1961 and remained at the school for 38 years. For three consecutive years in the 1970s, Davenport led his Black Knights teams to national championships, despite the fact the university never had a track the team could use for practice. The team practiced at local high schools, ran on sidewalks, and in gyms. His team never saw a track until meet time.

Born in Monroe, Louisiana in 1927, Davenport graduated from Tuskegee Institute where he lettered in football and later served in the Korean War. Before arriving at SUNO, he coached at Alcorn State and Dillard University. While at SUNO, he not only served as the head track coach, but at times as athletic director and chair of the physical education department.

Davenport was a four-time NAIA National Coach of the Year and three-time NCAA Coach of the Year. Last year the SUNO women’s team won the national championship, and Davenport came to campus to celebrate with the team.

Davenport retired from SUNO in 1999, but went to Bethune-Cookman as a part-time track assistant coach where he stayed until 2006. He has been inducted into the Hall of Fames for the USTFCCA, The All-State Sugar Bowl, Tuskegee University and SUNO.

Davenport is survived by his wife, LaRita Greer Davenport, five sons, three daughters, and many grandchildren.

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