Johnny Lee Davenport

July 24, 1950 to February 2, 2020  


Davenport was born in Louisiana in 1950, and grew up in Aurora. He graduated from West Aurora High School in 1968. He received a basketball scholarship and headed for Southern Illinois University, where he co-founded a theatrical group formerly called the Kutana Players now known as the Unity Theatre Ensemble.

The focus of his stage career became specific when, in 1988, he was selected to represent The Chicago Associates of the Stratford Festival of Canada and joined the Young Company, performing in "King Lear", “Oedipus", "The Critic", and "Twelfth Night". In 1989, he trained at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass., and became a long-standing company member.

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Some of his career highlights included working with August Wilson for the Chicago premiere of "Joe Turner’s Come and Gone" at the Goodman Theatre; being cast as Marshal Henry in the Oscar-nominated film "The Fugitive” starring Harrison Ford; working with Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo in Steppenwolf Theatre’s production of “Nomathemba"; traveling to the Athens Festival in Greece with Washington D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre Company to present The Oedipus Plays; performing with Avery Brooks in an all-African American "King Lear"; and representing America as a guest artist on three occasions to perform as Othello and Iago for Alan Stanford’s Second Age Theatre Company in Dublin.

His performance credits include more than 200 professional productions throughout the United States, Canada, and Ireland.

Davenport is survived by his wife Kelly Cook; his daughter Celia Davenport; his grandson Jonah Cabrales; his sister Richea Dougherty and her husband Billy; four nieces; three nephews; one grand-niece and three grand-nephews. He was preceded in death by his mother Katie (Pierre) Davenport, his father Richard Davenport and his brother Henry Davenport.

(Quotes included from his website:; The Chicago Tribune; and The Chicago Sun Times)


© Unity Theatre Ensemble 2021