Leila Foley-Davis made history in 1973 after she became the first Black woman elected mayor in the United States. Her election predates the election of Doris A. Davis of Compton, Calif., who became the first Black woman mayor of a major metropolitan city later that year.
Ms. Foley-Davis was born Lelia Kasenia Smith on November 7, 1942 in the formerly all-Black town of Taft, Okla. Foley-Davis, a divorced mom of five living on welfare, unsuccessfully ran for a school board post in 1973 but managed to gather enough votes to win the mayoral seat in Taft.
The election to the mayor’s post led to subsequent meetings with President Gerald Ford and President Jimmy Cater and in 1974, she was named Oklahoma’s Most Outstanding Woman Of The Year.
In the ’80’s, Foley-Davis lost the seat but in 2000, she was re-elected to the seat. She then made a bid for a Oklahoma House of Representatives post but failed to find success in the campaign.
According to recent writings, Foley-Davis remained in Taft, which is still predominately Black. A highway was named after her in town but she has remained largely out of the limelight since her historic election.