While Shelby Davidson could not viewed as a prolific inventor, he is significant in that he served as a great example of education, determination and perseverance.
Davidson was born in Lexington, Kentucky on May 10, 1868, the son of Shelby Jeames and Amelia Scott Davidson. Having been born after Emancipation, the younger Shelby was able to take advantage of the educational opportunities in the public school system. He later traveled to Louisville and enrolled in a state university program. Dissatisfied with the scope and quality of the program, he enrolled in Howard University in 1887. Howard, at the time, was the premier academic institution for Black students. As such, Shelby had to take additional courses for two years in a preparatory program in order to get him up to speed with his colleagues.
In 1983, Davidson’s college career was in jeopardy when charges were brought against him alleging that he had violated University rules regarding his involvement with a married woman. He was promptly expelled along with four other students. Davidson was furious as he had not been formally charged, nor had he been afforded the opportunity to defend himself. After almost six years in the University, he was unwilling to accept the decision and decided to fight back. First he argued that the faculty board had taken action against him and did not have the authority to do so. Further, he argued, that the action was invalid because he had not been afforded the opportunity to defend himself. He drafted an appeal which he forwarded to the Howard University trustees. Eventually, a negotiation took place and the matter was resolved and Davidson received a degree from the University in 1896.
The tenacity and thoroughness with which he fought back was precursor to how he would pursue his career. The experience also led him in the direction of pursuing law as a career. He was admitted to the Kentucky bar in 1899 and the the District of Columbia