ATLANTA - She was a staple of television news in Atlanta for decades. Amanda Davis, whose career in Atlanta alone spanned more than 30 years, died Wednesday night after reportedly suffering a stroke. Her sudden death has left many in shock as her friends, colleagues, and fans come together to remember the impact she had on the community.
FOX 5 spoke to a close friend of Davis who said she had a medical emergency Tuesday at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Davis, an anchor at WGCL for the past year, reportedly suffered a stroke and was rushed to the hospital. Colleagues announced her passing just before 10 p.m. Wednesday.
"I was absolutely shocked, you know, thinking about the way that it occurred going to really, to home going for her own relative..." said former Atlanta Police Chief George Turner. "And for this to occur is just unheard of for this death to occur in the way that it did,"
"All of us have tragedies that we go through, but I think because of her openness to share about the tragedy she was facing and come back from that is a testimony to her strength and fortitude," said Turner.
Davis worked as a television news anchor in Atlanta for more than 30 years. She started at WAGA in 1986 and soon became a fixture in the community, quickly taking over the anchor chair for the Noon news. In 1992, she was tasked with helping to launch FOX 5's highly-successful Good Day Atlanta franchise. After five years, she moved to the main anchor chair. She retired from the station in 2013.
"You know, we spent a long time together. I think it was probably more than 16 years on the air. Two hours a day, that's a lot of commercial breaks, a lot of time to get to know each other, to get to love each other. We were like family," said FOX 5 News Senior Anchor Russ Spencer.
Her labor of love while at FOX 5 Atlanta was the launch of Wednesday's Child, a segment dedicated to helping the young foster children of Atlanta find forever families. It was a project which began in 1997 under the title "A Place to Call Home." Just three short years later, the first Wednesday's Child segment hit the airwaves in November of 2000. It brought her much joy that she was able to tell their stories and find 32 children permanent, loving families in the first year alone. Her Wednesday's Child legacy proudly lives on at FOX 5 to this day.
"The Wednesday Child's stuff was the thing that touched her heart the most, and gave her the most satisfaction because it made a difference in people's lives," said Spencer.
Davis covered many stories throughout her time at FOX 5 Atlanta, but she might be most remembered for covering the funeral of Coretta Scott King and interviewing Barack Obama before he took office as President of the United States.
Her career in television news started at the former NBC affiliate in Charlotte, North Carolina, WRET. In just four years, she was promoted to become the station's main anchor and began hosting a weekly on-air magazine.
Davis then moved 400 miles north, to Washington, D.C. where she worked as the national correspondent for the now-defunct Satellite News Channel, an early competitor among the 24-hour cable news networks.
She then landed in Atlanta, which she called home ever since.
"With the passing of Amanda Davis, we have lost a caring sensitive friend and journalist. We pray for her family, friends, and colleagues. Her voice will be deeply missed," Rep. John Lewis said in a statement sent to FOX 5 News early Thursday morning.
"I am deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Amanda Davis, an icon of the Atlanta press corps. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Amanda's family, especially her daughter, during this difficult time," Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement sent to FOX 5 News. "Amanda's smile was known to people across the entire metropolitan Atlanta region. Amanda lit up the screen and forged a bond with her viewers. Her absence will be felt for years to come. During this holiday season, let us be reminded of the need to hold our loved ones close, and cherish every moment we spend with our family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues."
"I am deeply saddened to learn of the untimely passing of Amanda Davis. She was an icon in the Atlanta television news industry who stood out among the best and the brightest," Atlanta City Council member Michael Julian Bond said in a statement sent to FOX 5 News. "Over the years, I grew to know her as a great and gracious person. She was forthright in her reporting and endearing as a person and a friend. Her passing Wednesday was a great tragedy for those who knew and loved her. My heart goes out to her daughter Melora, her mother and her extended family. All of Atlanta shares in their mourning."
In addition to being well-respected in the community, many former colleagues and interns remember her for offering advice, help and assistance.
"She was always just on top of it, and she expected everyone around her to rise to the same level. So even as an intern, she pushed me to do the best work that I could do," said FOX 5's Marissa Mitchell, who worked with Davis when she first interned at the station.
Davis had personal qualities which many found to be rare and often hard to find in others. She was described as warm, kind, sincere and affectionate.
"From the day that I walked into FOX 5 News as a weekend anchor, Amanda embraced me, not only as a colleague, but as a friend. I will truly miss how she gave so much to our newsroom, so much to the community," former FOX 5 News Anchor Art Franklin.
Those who knew her best said she was the same way in person as she was on TV. Her smile was constantly on display, making their day a little brighter.
"I'm not really that funny, but Amanda always laughed at whatever I had to say. She was very generous in that way. Very generous. But both, you know, sort of in our personal friendship and on the air too," said Russ Spencer. "I think everybody sensed that Amanda was the, you know, real thing. What you saw was what was there off camera too."
During her career, Davis won multiple Emmys from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, including Best Newscast honors for anchoring FOX 5 News in 1999 and 2000. She was also honored with the prestigious Edward R. Murrow Award for her continuous live broadcasting during the abortion clinic bombing in Atlanta. Those stories, which she took to heart, also earned her a GABBY Award from the Georgia Association of Broadcasters in 1998. The Atlanta Association of Black Journalists bestowed several awards to Davis including Best Anchor in 2000 and one for her continued work on the Wednesday's Child features. Her labor of love also earned her a nod with the Keenan's Kids Foundation Media Award.
Davis graduated Magna Cum Laude from Clark Atlanta University and was recognized twice by her alma mater with its Distinguished Alumni Award and Community Service Award.
"She has a legacy that she left here in the city that people will forever remember Amanda," said Turner.
"She was more brave and more honest than most. And I think a lot of people have been inspired by her faith too. I know I have. And I have every confidence that it's being rewarded right now. That's my prayer," said Spencer.
Davis is survived by her mother and her daughter.
A viewing will be held on January 2 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Gregory B. Levett Funeral Home located at 4347 Flat Shoals Parkway and will be open to the public.
Funeral will be held 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 3 at Cascade United Methodist Church located at 3144 Cascade Road SW in Atlanta. The service will be open to the public.