William Roscoe Davis was an important African American leader in Elizabeth City County (later the city of Hampton) during the(1861–1865), and served as doorkeeper for the Constitutional Convention of 1867–1868. Born into slavery, Davis was noted for his intelligence and received permission as a boat operator. He spent a considerable amount of his money paying for a lawsuit to defend his wife‘s manumission, but a local judge refused to enforce the couple’s legal victory. Davis was among the first slaves to find freedom at . A Baptist exhorter before the conflict, he became an ordained by 1863. His charisma was so impressive that he became a paid orator who toured Northern states. Later in life he claimed credit for the creation of Hampton Normal and Collegiate Institute (later Hampton University), telling people that his request for a new teacher led to the arrival of the institution’s founder, . He remained a leader in the community and respected elder in his family, also serving as the Old Point Comfort lighthouse keeper and buying property in Hampton. He died in 1904.