From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Lavelle, Louis A.

(born: 1877  -  died: 1943) 

Louis A. Lavelle was a teacher, a lawyer, and an inventor. He was a teacher in Colored District "A" in Lancaster, KY, in 1898. He was removed from the job because 25% of the number of colored children in the district did not attend school for more than 20 consecutive days. In 1901, Lavelle was a lawyer in Lexington, KY, and was also the editor of the Twentieth Century Literary Digest, published in Harrodsburg, KY. The Lexington Leader newspaper referred to the publication as one of the best colored literary magazines. In 1902, Lavelle was back at the Lancaster Colored School, he was the school principal and the student attendance was at a high. Lavelle was also admitted to the bar in Lancaster, and is thought to be the first African American in that organization.  

Also in 1902, an article was published in The American Telephone Journal about a telephone answering and recording machine that L. A. Lavelle had invented, but he did not have the funding to manufacture the machine. The previous year he had filed for a patent on his buggy brake that worked on the hubs of the front wheels with best results on rubber tires. By 1905, Lavelle had left Kentucky and moved to New York and was admitted to the bar. His office was located at 104 W. 30th Street in New York City. He was a member of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and ran unsuccessfully for the New York Legislature, and for the U.S. Congress in 1922 and 1924.  He was also unsuccessfully in his bid for New York City magistrate in 1925. Louis A. Lavelle (whose name is spelled many different ways) died in Bronx, NY on October 27, 1943 [source: New York Death Index (Ancestry).

For more information see "Change in Colored school," Central Record, 01/07/1898, p.1; "A Colored magazine," Leader, 04/07/1901, p.3; "Colored Notes," Leader, 03/26/1905, p.2; "Lawyer L. A. Leavell...," Central Record, 10/16/1902, p.1; "An Automatic recorder," The American Telephone Journal, vol. 6, no.4, 07/26/1902, p.53; and "A Good invention," Central Record, 08/22/1901, p.3. See Louis A. "Lavelle" in Emancipation: the making of the black lawyer, 1844-1944 by J. C. Smith, Jr.

Kentucky County & Region

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Outside Kentucky Place Name

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Lavelle, Louis A.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 13, 2024,

Last modified: 2019-01-09 21:10:45