Pioneering ABC Exec Preston Davis Dies at 63

Head of b'cast operations was first African-American to hold prexy post at net

Preston Davis, the first African-American to hold a prexy post at ABC, died April 15 after an illness. He was 63.

Davis had been prexy of broadcast operations and engineering for ABC Television Network Group from 1993 until his retirement in 2011. He started his career at ABC as an engineer in 1976.

“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,” said Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television Group.

ABC paid tribute to the exec at the close of Tuesday’s edition of “World News with Diane Sawyer.” Sawyer noted that Davis was “respected at every level” of ABC.

A native of Norfolk, Va., Davis served in the U.S. Army as a specialist in communications technology and was a veteran of the Vietnam War.

In 1976, Davis joined ABC in Washington, D.C., and rose through the ranks in posts overseeing field and studio operations in Washington, Atlanta and New York. In 1988 he was promoted to VP of television operations, East Coast.

“Preston and I started at ABC around the same time,” said Mr. Iger, chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company. “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.”

His duties over the years included technical planning and support required for news, sports and entertainment special events, including presidential elections for the primaries through Inauguration Day, and also major sporting events, including “Monday Night Football” and the Super Bowl.

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 and Radio, and served as a member of the President’s Council of Cooper Union College of Science & Art.

Funeral services will be held on Saturday, April 20 at 10:00 a.m. at the Woodland Community Church, 9607 State Road 70 E, Bradenton, Florida. Donations may be made to the Center for Building Hope: Center for Building Hope, 5481 Communications Parkway, Sarasota, Florida, 34240 or

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  1. Elaine M. Marinaro says:

    Dear Michelle and children, It has been many years since we were together at Assumption School.. It is with great regret to hear the news. You and Preston were very dear to our hearts.
    Please accept our deepest condolences.
    Al and Elaine Marinaro
    Morristown, NJ

  2. paul cassidy says:

    Preston was always a leader and had superior people skills. I remember him vividly as friendly and dynamic too, both rare qualities.

  3. Jeff Ruthizer says:

    Truly a great man has passed, and those of us who knew him well cannot help but be saddened by this loss. Our thoughts go out to Michelle, Ashley and Preston III.

    • Thomas Green says:

      A great man who will be greatly missed and contributed so much to the ABC Network. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, three children and grand children. Preston you will be missed.

  4. gregory ciccone says:

    i worked in his department for years.he was a fair and good man. i’m saddened by his passing.

  5. Deke says:

    Josh Elliott had a warm remembrance today on Good Morning America. Classy.

  6. John Luff says:

    In an industry full of people who make little lasting impact Preston will be remembered for successfully nurturing the development of innovations that make us all better. His kindness to me on a personal level during the deployment of 720p systems at ABC, and for Monday Night Football will be remembered fondly. RIP

  7. Bill H says:

    I had the pleasure of working with Preston Davis for more than 15 years, he was a gentleman and talented leader. His impact on ABC was tremendous, and he will be missed by many!

  8. Will miss you greatly my friend. And will help as I can Michelle through this time of grief. I hope you have found your mom and niece are now with them in peace.

  9. David Caperton says:

    Had the pleasure of meeting Preston at CBH meetings in Lakewood Ranch. He was an an inspiration to all who attended. He certainly made an impact on me. May you be at peace with God.

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