Late alumnus, star athlete Judge Davies being honored this week at dedication events for new Fargo High School

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University of North Dakota


Dedication ceremonies continue this week in south Fargo for a new high school named in honor of the late Judge Ronald N. Davies, one of the University of North Dakota’s most notable alumni.

During his career as municipal judge and later as U.S. district Judge for North Dakota, Davies participated in hundreds of decisions, but he is best known for ordering the integration of all-white Little Rock (Ark.) Central High School and paving the way for a group of black students, who would become known as the “Little Rock Nine”, to attend school there. The case is considered to be the landmark decision in racial integration and a significant milestone in the American Civil Rights movement.

A giant mural depicting Davies’ life was unveiled on Tuesday in the new $40-million Ronald N. Davies High School. Friday, a legal symposium on “The Legal Decisions of Judge Davies” will take place at 1 p.m., at the high school, 7150 25th St. S.

Saturday, there will be a “Rocking Chair Symposium” with members of the Little Rock Nine in attendance, joined by local historian Carl Oberholzer, at the Bluestem Center for the Arts, 801 50th Ave. S.W. And on Sunday, the official dedication ceremony for the high school is set to take place at 2 p.m. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia is expected to take part in the dedication.

Davies attended Grand Forks Central High School and graduated from UND with a bachelor of arts in 1927. He was also regarded as fleet of foot and a star athlete during his years at UND. He would move on to Georgetown University to receive his law degree and then back to Grand Forks, where he practiced and served as a municipal judge for 25 years. His law career was interrupted from 1942 to 1946, when he served in the U.S. Army in World War II.

In 1955, Davies was named a U.S. District Judge. His significant decisions related to integration came in 1957, when he was sent to Arkansas to bolster that area’s cadre of federal judges who were faced with overwhelming caseloads. Davies’ decisions blocked attempts by Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus to block the Little Rock Nine from attending school with whites and prompted President Eisenhower to enforce integration with federal troops.

Davies was given an honorary doctorate degree in 1961 for his outstanding legal career to that point, and in 1979, he received UND’s highest alumni honor, The Sioux Award.

In 2001, the federal courthouse in downtown Grand Forks was renamed the Ronald N. Davies Federal Building and Courthouse. He also was the recipient of the state’s highest honor, the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award.

Davies died on April 18, 1996.