ABC’s first African-American division president has passed away. Preston Davis served as president of broadcast operations and engineering for the television network with a career that spanned 35 years. He died of illness at the age 63.
Funeral services were held for Davis on Saturday at the Woodland Community Church in Bradenton, Fla. He was a native of Norfolk, Va.
Davis joined ABC in 1976, beginning as an engineer in Washington, D.C., and subsequently moving into various positions of increasing responsibility involving field and studio operations in Washington D.C., Atlanta and New York City.
In 1988, he was promoted to vice president of television operations for the East Coast, where he directed the efforts of studio and field operations, electronic news gathering, telecommunications and the RF Operations & Engineering Group. In 1993, Bob Iger promoted him to lead ABC’s broadcast operations and engineering division, making him the first African-American president of any Capital Cities/ABC division in the history of the company. He retired from the company in 2011.
“For 35 years at ABC, Preston was a mentor and an advisor to so many of us, but most importantly, he was a dear friend. He led by example and was the true definition of integrity,” said Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television Group. “Our thoughts are with Preston’s wife, Michelle, and their children, Ashley and Preston III. I hope they know how very much Preston will be missed by his ABC family.”
A serviceman, Davis served in the U.S. Army as a specialist in communications technology and was a veteran of the Vietnam War. He sat on the board of directors of the Foundation for Minority Interests in Media Inc., which provides programs for bringing talented minority youth into the communications industry.
In the community, he served on the Board of Junior Achievement of New York, was a member of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Museum of Television and Radio and served as a member of the President’s Council of Cooper Union College of Science & Art. He resided in Morristown, N.J., and Sarasota, Fla.
ABC paid tribute to Davis on “World News” and “Good Morning America.” He was in charge of operations for major broadcast events, including the Academy Awards, presidential debates, live breaking news stories, inaugurations and “Monday Night Football.”
In lieu of flowers, the Davis family requests that donations be made to the Center for Building Hope at: 5481 Communications Parkway, Sarasota, FL, 34240 or www.centerforbuildinghope.org.