Posted by William Nunnelley on 2007-04-11

Retired Birmingham attorney Elizabeth Davis Eshelman, a longtime benefactor of Samford University and its Cumberland School of Law, died April 10. She was the daughter of the late Maj. Harwell G. Davis, former Samford president, and Lena Vail Davis. Eshelman graduated from Samford with a bachelor's degree at age 19, and in 1964, became the first woman to graduate from Cumberland after it had become a part of Samford.

Eshelman was a trust and estates lawyer who worked with SouthTrust Bank, now Wachovia, and co-authored a book in the field. Later, she entered private practice. She and her family endowed the Harwell Goodwin Davis Chair of Constitutional Law at Cumberland. She was also a benefactor of the Birmingham YWCA and Mountain Brook Baptist Church.

A member of the Alabama Bar Association, Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity and Phi Kappa Phi scholarship honorary, she was listed in Who's Who in International Women as well as Who's Who in American Women. She was admitted to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972. She was awarded the Birmingham YWCA Woman of Valor Award in January of 2007. She was also a member of the National Association of the Daughters of the American Revolution and Alpha Delta Pi sorority.

She was predeceased by her parents; a brother, Harwell; her husband, Joe; and one grandchild. Survivors include her son, Bill (Ruth) of Alexandria, Va.; her daughter, Vail Jeavons (Tony) of Vestavia Hills; a sister, Dorothy Jenkins, of Lebanon, Tenn.; ten grandchildren; and one great granddaughter. The family suggested memorial gifts to the Lena Vail Davis Scholarship Fund at Samford.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.