Preston Davis, a pioneering television executive who served as president of broadcast operations and engineering for ABC, died April 15 after an illness, the Walt Disney Co. said Wednesday. He was 63.
In 1993, Robert Iger, then president of the ABC Network Television Group, promoted Davis to lead broadcast operations and engineering, making him the first African-American president of any Capital Cities/ABC division in the history of the media company.
“Preston and I started at ABC around the same time,” Iger, now Disney chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “He was a talented and tenacious leader who earned wide respect for his abilities and was revered for his impeccable integrity. When I had to choose someone to lead BO&E into the future, there was no question Preston was the right person, and he led that team to great achievements for the better part of two decades. Preston was a class act and a great guy who had a tremendous impact on everyone who knew him.”
“For 35 years at ABC, Preston was a mentor and an advisor to so many of us, but most importantly a dear friend. He led by example and was the true definition of integrity,” added Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television Group.
Davis, who retired from the company in 2011, joined ABC in 1976 as an engineer in Washington, D.C. He moved into various positions of increasing responsibility involving field and studio operations in D.C., Atlanta and New York and was promoted in 1988 to vp television operations for the East Coast, where he directed studio and field operations, electronic newsgathering, telecommunications and the RF operations and engineering group.
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, which provides programs for bringing minority youth into the communications industry. He also served on the board of Junior Achievement of New York, was a member of the technical advisory committee of the Museum of Television & Radio and served as a member of the president’s council of Cooper Union College of Science & Art in New York.
Survivors include his wife, Michelle, and their children Ashley and Preston III.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Woodland Community Church in Bradenton, Fla. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Center for Building Hope in Sarasota, Fla.