Over the past week, Davenport Evans celebrated a 75th Anniversary Commemorative Week, including a staff appreciation luncheon, Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting, Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Network event, and more. It was a wonderful time of community, remembering those who came before us and the vision that inspires us yet today.
On Wednesday, September 17, Davenport Evans hosted a Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals Network (YPN) event and a ribbon cutting marking the firm’s 75th Anniversary and 75 years as a Chamber member.
The Chamber YPN event was entitled, “A Seat at the Table” and featured Davenport Evans lawyer Bob Hayes. Hayes spoke with 20 young professionals as part of an on-going series offering access to prominent business leaders. The discussion included how the legal profession has changed over the course of Hayes’s career, the important role of community involvement in business, and lessons in corporate customer service.
Later that day, Davenport Evans hosted the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce for a ribbon cutting. Remarks were made by several committee representatives, including Master of Ceremonies Amy Hoback, Chamber Ambassador Nathan Stallinga, Chamber Diplomat Stefanie Engebretson, and Young Professionals Network representative Lexie Jacobsen. Mayor Mike Huether also spoke. A plaque of recognition was presented by Dean Karsky on behalf of the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
Edwin E. Evans delivered an address on behalf of Davenport Evans, providing a moving history of the four founders of the firm, Holton Davenport, Ellsworth Evans, Louis Hurwitz, and Deming Smith. Please see below for that full account.
Prepared and Delivered by Edwin E. Evans September 17, 2014
Welcome to Davenport, Evans, Hurwitz & Smith and thank you for taking your time and having interest in sharing our 75th Anniversary. On behalf of the law firm, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your friendship, the confidence you place in us, and the opportunity you have given us to serve you. Many of you are associated with businesses or families that have been loyal clients of the law firm for many, many years, some even dating back for the entire 75 years of the firm’s existence. Others of you have become clients more recently. We appreciate all of you and look forward to serving you in the future.
I was asked today to discuss for a few minutes, I promise no longer, the origins of Davenport, Evans, Hurwitz & Smith. I am not sure how I got this assignment but I suspect it’s because I knew all four founders.
- Holton Davenport
- Ellsworth Evans
- Deming Smith
- Louis Hurwitz
There may not be many advantages of advancing in age but one of the advantages is having the honor of having known each of those individuals. The law firm has a rich, robust history. So how did Davenport Evans Hurwitz & Smith come into existence?
Holton Davenport was practicing law in Boston. He met Dorothy Day from Sioux Falls. Her parents owned the Argus Leader at the time. He moved from Boston to Sioux Falls during the Depression and married Dorothy. Holton was a perfectionist in every sense of the word whether it involved his legal work and writing, his personal dress with starched white shirts, cuff links, freshly dry-cleaned suit, and fedora every day, or anything else he did. He was known as having a great legal mind and being an exceptional writer.
So, in 1937 and 1938, Holton, along with M.Q. Sharp, former Attorney General and future Governor, and Dwight Campbell, Retired Justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court, was appointed to rewrite the entire statutory code for the State of South Dakota.
While in Pierre in 1937 and 1938 working on rewriting South Dakota’s laws, Holton met Ellsworth Evans, my father, who was the Chief Prosecutor for the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office at the age of 33.
They got to know each other and when Ellsworth left the Attorney General’s Office in 1938 to return to Watertown to open a law practice, Holton called him and asked him to come to Sioux Falls for lunch.
The Davenport Evans Law Firm was born at that lunch. The partnership started in early 1939.
Louis Hurwitz joined the firm shortly thereafter. He brought with him keen insight and knowledge of business and real estate law with a heavy dose of common sense. I always recall Louis’ business model: regardless of the length and careful craftsmanship of any well-written contract, one cannot make a good deal with a bad person and one cannot make a bad deal with a good person. In addition to Louis advising a wide range of successful bankers and family businesses in Sioux Falls and beyond, he managed the law firm. He was responsible for everything from buying pencils, pens and paperclips, typewriters and carbon paper, to human resources, staffing decisions, salaries, maintenance and snow removal and everything in between. He was Davenport Evans Hurwitz & Smith.
Deming Smith joined the firm shortly after Louis. He was a true gentleman and a great lawyer. I have many fond memories of Deming but one enduring one is seeing him leave the office every night with a stack of court decisions and legal magazines under his arm to take home and read, devoting his free time to staying current on the law. He had a distinguished career with too many accomplishments to mention today but if you appreciate the Christmas programs in our public schools, you have Deming to thank. He represented the School District in successfully defeating the First Amendment challenges made to the singing of Christmas carols in our public schools at Christmas time.
That is our heritage. All of the founders came from different geographic and educational backgrounds but they became one big family not only in the practice of law but personally as well. Over the next 75 years, our firm grew to 34 lawyers and 36 support staff.
So what do current members of the firm take away from our founders? Before mission statements and the like became popular, Holton, Ellsworth, Louis and Deming had a very simple, straightforward business model:
- Provide superior legal services to clients,
- In a timely manner; and
- At a fair price.
- Last, don’t forget your community.
Regarding this last item, I can attest that every lawyer in this firm serves the community in one or more ways, whether it is mentoring students in the schools, volunteering for community organizations, or supporting various charitable endeavors. They do it not to be recognized but because it’s the right thing to do. And it’s not just our lawyers but our staff as well. Over the years, they have adopted Christmas families and donated money and goods to other charitable causes. This year, in recognition of our 75th anniversary, the law firm selected twelve charitable organizations, one in each month, and purchased 75 items of their choice for them.
That has been Davenport Evans Hurwitz & Smith’s vision yesterday and it continues today and into the future: A tradition of excellence and service to our clients and the community. That is our vision.
I am almost done but I would be remiss if I did not recognize our staff. Over the years, we have had the privilege of having a great support staff who share our vision. We have 25 employees, approximately 36%, who have been with us for over twenty years and 43 who have been here longer than 10 years. Thus, almost two-thirds of our employees have been with us for over 10 years. We are indebted to them for their dedication to delivering the best services in a timely manner to our clients at a fair price. I wish I could recognize each of them individually at this time and thank them for making us all look so good.
I will end as I started; thank you for coming and spending your time with us in celebration of our 75th anniversary and for allowing me to share some special firm memories with you.
Davenport, Evans, Hurwitz & Smith, LLP, located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is one of the State’s largest law firms. The firm’s attorneys provide business and litigation counsel to individuals and corporate clients in a variety of practice areas. For more information about Davenport Evans, visit www.DEHS.com.