Covell & Brinley Awards

A Davis Tradition Since 1944

The C.A. Covell AwarD (Davis Citizen of the Year)

In 1944, Lynn N. Irwin, an area farmer who was very involved in Davis, presented a new two-foot high gold trophy at a Chamber of Commerce meeting to be given each year to the person doing the most for the Davis community.  

As Irwin belonged to the Chamber, it was only appropriate that this kind of award would be arranged under the umbrella of the well- organized Chamber, which included the leaders of the community.

Irwin suggested that the recipient of the award be:

1) A leader in civic activities 

2) Unselfish in his/her service to the community

3) Reliable in following through on commitments 

4) Involved in a variety of activities  

The Chamber then appointed the highly-respected UCD professor James Wilson to select the first recipient.  Wilson made the presentation Monday February 1, 1944 at the Chamber’s annual meeting.   After stating the purpose of the cup and listing many contributions to the community the person he selected had made, he said it was easy to determine the winner, Cal Covell, the mayor of Davis since 1931.

With the trophy went the additional honor of having the award named after him,  the C.A. Covell Trophy for Community Service, and the recipient is known as the Citizen of the Year.  This award has been presented almost every year since.

The Early Selection Committees

After Covell was selected by Wilson, recipients the next four years were selected by the Chamber’s board of directors.  Starting in 1950, a committee of six or more previous winners became the Selection Committee.

Each year the Chamber appointed a member to chair the committee and to set the process in motion.  Since the awards were presented the evening of the July 4 festivities in the Davis Central Park, the process began in March or April, with the committee convening in June.  No one knew the results until they were announced during the picnic supper.  By the time the process changed, as many as 20 winners were eligible to be on the committee.   

This process lasted until 1964, when the committee chair reported, “Last year the recipients felt they had done this long enough and that a new type of committee should be used.”  The Chamber then decided to select individuals from the wider community, in which a more widely diverse group would select the next Citizen of the Year.

Transition to a community committee

In 1964, to make the transition, the Chamber of Commerce appointed Don Derbyshire to chair a Selection Committee.  Derbyshire worked with Chamber Manager Derald Gibson to choose 16 “representative Davisites” from which the Chamber could select the final committee.  The list consisted of one businesswoman, four businessmen, two representatives from women’s clubs, one men’s service club representative, one from UC Davis, two from the schools, one from City Hall, one from the newspaper, two previous committee members, and one League of Women Voters member.

At the next Chamber meeting, Derbyshire and Gibson asked the Chamber to vote for six of these people to be the Selection Committee.  The six who received the most votes were Don Anderson (businessman), Bob Pearl (service clubs), Ed Spafford (UCD), Joe Carey (schools), Gertrude La Grone (City Hall), and Sandy Motley (LWV).  This process was generally followed until 1974.  

Establishing The A. G. Brinley Award

In 1969, twenty-five years after the Citizen of the Year was created, the nominating committee for the 1969 Covell Award felt the need for an additional award to recognize outstanding service involving a particular project that benefited the city or—as was later added—for contributions in a major area over an extended period of time.

John W. Brinley—the previous year’s (1968) Citizen of the Year and a member of this year’s Selection Committee—established the new award in honor of his father,  A. G. “Sam” Brinley.  It became known as the A. G. Brinley Award for Special Merit.  The first A.G. Brinley Award was presented January 23, 1970, to Joann Leach Larkey, who had just completed the book, Davisville ‘68, the History and Heritage of the City of Davis.

This new award was then presented each year at the same time as the Covell.  Nominators usually have directed their letters toward one or the other, but some suggest either award is appropriate.