USA Volleyball is saddened to learn of the death of Wink Davenport, a 1968 Olympian and longtime volleyball official.
Winthrop “Wink” Davenport passed away on May 3.
He began playing volleyball in the late 1950s at the Binghamton, N.Y. YMCA. After playing basketball and golf at Wesleyan University, Davenport graduated and moved to California where he earned a spot on the U.S. Men’s National Team. He won gold with the MNT at the 1967 Pan American Games and made the 1968 Olympic roster. Davenport helped the squad win four matches in Mexico City, including a 3-2 win over the Soviet Union, which went on to win the gold.
Davenport also competed in the 1969 FIVB World Cup before retiring in 1971. Before the end of his career, Davenport captained Santa Monica’s USVBA club team to a national title and earned All-America honors.
Davenport didn’t leave the game after he stopped playing. He earned national certification as a referee in 1970, starting a longer and more illustrious career as an official. He officiated at world junior championships, world cup, world championships and the 1988 Olympic Games, not to mention several NCAA men’s and women’s championship matches.
Davenport also was involved in volleyball at the administrative level, serving on the U.S. Volleyball Association (the precursor to USA Volleyball) board from 1971-77 and as the organization’s vice president from 1973-76. Internationally, he was secretary of the International Federation of Volleyball Officials and was referee delegate to the 1996 Olympics.
Davenport’s lengthy service to volleyball has been widely recognized. In 1986, he was one of the USA Volleyball’s inaugural Glen G. Davies Referee Service Award winners. A decade later, he received the Wilbur H. Peck Referee – Emeritus Award, USAV’s top award for officials. After another 12 years, Davenport received the James E. Colman USA National Team Award for his “unusual performance of excellence and uncompromising commitment to the USA national team programs.”
He’s been inducted into the Southern California Indoor Volleyball Hall of Fame and Wesleyan University Athletics’ Hall of Fame.
The SCVA has created a GoFundMe in honor of Wink Davenport to promote the education and advancement of officials: GoFundMe
Those wishing to honor Wink Davenport can also do so with a donation to Orange County (Calif.) Make-A-Wish Foundation or the Southern California Indoor Volleyball Hall of Fame.
Tributes to Wink Davenport
Former USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal
“Wink was a special part of USA Volleyball and a very dear friend!! I cannot think of anyone else who transitioned from an Olympic player to a regional commissioner and on to a significant and well-respected international referee. He played a key role in supporting the USA National Team Training center during especially our time in San Diego during the 1980’s and into the 90’s when both teams were achieving Olympic medal success. Wink was a passionate supporter of the teams and always available and ready to help. He accompanied our teams on numerous international trips and was invaluable in logistical support and as a key staff support resource. I will miss his sense of humor and friendship and wise advice and counsel.”
Teammate Rudy Suwara
“I first met Wink Davenport at the West Side YMCA “B” VB tournament in Fall of 1959. He was one of the tallest players on the East Coast and was a force at the net. Wink’s blocking and spiking were so much higher than we had experienced at this time, late fifties in the east. Over the next five years, we (three Suwara brothers, John, Rudy and Ernie) often played against the Binghamton Y in tournaments in the northeast area. At one event in January of 1963, we played at the Binghamton Y, and were disappointed that Wink was off playing Basketball for Wesleyan College, where he was one of their best players ever, setting many scoring and rebounding records. Our West side team was able to beat the Ottawa team from Canada in the Finals after John Suwara broke a finger of the best Ottawa player with a spike. In summer of 1963, Ernie Suwara went to California and was selected to the 1964 USA Men’s Team for Tokyo at the first Olympics for volleyball. Next Rudy Suwara (1965), and Wink Davenport (1966) moved to California to train and make the 1968 Olympic Team by winning the gold medal at the 1967 Pan-Am games in Winnipeg, Canada. So sad to lose our good friend Wink Davenport on May 3, 2022, two days after he was selected to the Southern California Indoor Volleyball Hall of Fame.”