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Amanda Davis (1955-2017): kindhearted, authentic, beloved


Posted Thursday, December 28, 2017 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his myAJC Radio & TV Talk blog

While evening anchor at Fox 5, Amanda Davis adored doing a weekly segment featuring foster children needing homes called Wednesday's Child.

"She didn't just show up with cameras," said Budd McEntee, her news director at the time. "She learned quickly that very young, vulnerable kids will clam up if you just start asking questions. So she would take time to meet with them beforehand, explain to them how it worked, really got to know the child. This ultimately made for better stories on camera."

Davis, 62, died Wednesday from complications after a massive stroke Tuesday night at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. A public viewing will be held Tuesday, Jan.  2 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Gregory B. Levett and Sons Funeral Home on Flat Shoals Parkway in Decatur. The funeral service, which will be open to the public as well, will be held at 11 a.m. at Cascade United Methodist Church  at 3144 Cascade Road SW in Atlanta.

She was best known for her 26-year-run at WAGA-TV, which was first a CBS affiliate, then became a Fox affiliate.

A San Antonio native, Davis graduated Clark College in Atlanta and interned at Channel 2 Action News.

After graduation, she worked at a TV station in Charlotte followed by a stint in Washington, D.C. for the short-lived Satellite News Network. She found her way back to Atlanta at WSB-TV as a reporter in 1984. It didn't take long before she began anchoring as well.

"She was such a good reporter," recalled Monica Pearson, the legendary WSB-TV anchor who retired in 2012. "I knew she wasn't going to remain a reporter. She had a real ability to communicate with the camera and the people. She was always very honest. What you saw was Amanda."

Pearson could see in Davis a combination of intelligence, beauty and down-to-earth authenticity: "That's why people loved her so much. They loved her vulnerability."

In 1986, Davis landed at WAGA and thrived for 26 years. Management gave her the opportunity to host a new local morning show in 1992  called "Good Day Atlanta." It became an immediate hit.

"We were like partners in crime," said Paul Ossmann, her co-host at the time. She read the hard news and did the newsmaker interviews. He handled the lighter fare. He saw Davis as the counterpuncher, he as the outgoing type. "I'd say silly things and with a look and a single word, she'd take me down," he said.

Davis eventually moved on to the coveted evening anchor spot, taking over for Brenda Wood. Davis won multiple Emmy's and the coveted Edward R. Murrow Award for her continuous live broadcasting during the abortion clinic bombing in Atlanta in 1997.

"Amanda had her flaws, as we all do, but she had a big heart," said Bud Veazey, a former assistant news director at WAGA-TV from 1988 to 2008. "A sad news story, especially if it was about a child, would bring her to tears on the air. It wasn't bogus TV anchor lady emotion."

Pearson said one of Davis' favorite charities was Mary Hall Freedom House, which provides residential substance treatment services and housing for homeless women and their children.

In recent years, she was active at Cascade United Methodist Church in Atlanta. Kevin Murriel, senior pastor, described her hospitable spirit and her glowing smile that he said warmed his heart every Sunday. She was especially active in the youth ministry, once chaperoning a trip with 50 students to 10 colleges and universities in the Southeast.

"You could see the joy of her experiences every time she was there," Murriel said, "even when she was going through her challenges. She smiled through the pain, through all the public shame, if you will. She came through. That's a testament to her faith. We can all do things through Christ that gives us strength. She lived that. She went out on top."

Davis, in an unusually candid CBS46 three-part series that aired in 2016, didn't shy away from her drinking problems. She talked about depression following an engagement breakup and  how she drank in excess to numb the pain. She related how she often felt like a fake “pretending to have it all together when nothing could be further from the truth.” A few friends expressed concern about my drinking but “I brushed it off.”

Then she lost her job at Fox 5 after a DUI arrest in 2012, a low point in her life, she said. But it took another drunken driving charge in 2015 to force her into serious treatment.

She said her church friends also helped her climb out of her abyss.

“I found new purpose,” she said during the CBS46 special, “new support and love. Things were looking up. I thanked God.”

"Being an alcoholic is not all that I am," she added. "There is so much more to me.”

After more than three years off the air, CBS46 gave her another shot at anchoring in January, plastering billboards around town proclaiming "Amanda is back!" She calmed the turbulent waters during the mornings and ratings started improving in the fall.

"I'm glad she was able to make the comeback she did," said Wood, who anchored at WAGA and 11Alive before retiring earlier this year. "She will be remembered for that, for having the strength to persevere and overcome."

Pearson said the outpouring of support following her death showed how much positive impact she had on the Atlanta community. "I don't think she ever realized how loved she was," she said. "I don't think she ever knew how precious she was to people."

Davis is survived by her daughter Melora Rivera, a screenwriter in Hollywood, and her mother Mary Davis in San Antonio.


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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.