Tribute for Chandler Davidson, founding member of the Department of Sociology

Dear colleagues and students,

We are writing to share the sad news that Chandler Davidson, a longtime professor in Rice University's School of Social Sciences and one of the nation's leading experts on voting rights, died April 10 at the age of 84.

The influential scholar, activist, award-winning teacher and steadfast supporter of his students spent a lifetime championing issues of racial equality, social justice and voter access. Much of his work was done at Rice where Chandler spent his entire career, from 1966 to 2003.

The Radoslav A. Tsanoff Professor Emeritus of Public Affairs and Sociology was a founding member of Rice's Department of Sociology. He served as department chair for 14 years and had a joint appointment with the Department of Political Science in the latter part of his career.

Robert Stein, the Lena Gohlman Fox Professor of Political Science, who served as dean of social sciences while Chandler was sociology chair, said Chandler was instrumental in expanding sociology's faculty and research, leading the way for the establishment of the department’s Ph.D. program. He also said Chandler was an influential colleague and leader who set the standard for his peers.

Other Rice faculty described Chandler as a passionate teacher who focused on subjects that were dear to his heart, many of which centered around racial and ethnic politics, minority voting rights and social inequality.

Throughout his career, Chandler won five universitywide teaching prizes, including Rice's top award, the George R. Brown Excellence in Teaching Prize. He also won accolades for his scholarship and university service and wrote and edited a number of books and many articles in academic journals and popular magazines.

Chandler's scholarship on voting rights was cited numerous times in U.S. Supreme Court opinions and lower court opinions. In 2014, the Department of Justice called upon him as an expert witness in a lawsuit challenging the Texas law requiring voters to present a photo ID. His report was cited by the federal district court judge who declared the law unconstitutional.

Chandler will be greatly missed by the Rice community and beyond. His lifelong work of increasing racial and social justice made an impact beyond the university’s hedges and will continue to do so for years to come.

Davidson is survived by his wife, Sharon Plummer; a son, Seth Davidson (wife Yasuko); grandchildren Cassady Davidson (husband Torazo Saito), Hans Davidson (wife Julia) and Woodrow Davidson; great-grandchildren Ringoro, Kohaku and Suzunami Saito; a brother, Tony Davidson (wife Robin); and two nieces and two nephews. He was preceded in death by a son, Ian Davidson; and a brother, Phillip Davidson.

A celebration of his life will be held Nov. 1, 2021, on the Rice campus, with further details to follow.

Read more about Chandler and his accomplishments at the university in Rice News.

Kind regards,

Reginald DesRoches, Provost David Leebron, President