Former WCIA-3 anchor and news director Paul Davis died Sunday night at the age of 82 after battling cancer. He was born and raised in Effingham, schooled at the University of Illinois, and went to straight to work at Channel 3 full time after graduating. His career may have started in central Illinois but his influence in the world of journalism is felt across the country.
You knew his voice before seeing his face.
“Paul had an iconic voice,” remembered his friend John Paul. “One of those deep, baritone, resonant voices that you knew Paul.”
Davis was the quintessential newsman. He started his career at WCIA-3 back in 1960. First as a reporter, and then anchor, before becoming the news director in 1967. He had a knack for recognizing new talent, like Judy Fraser. He hired her in 1976.
“I hadn’t done television in several years,” Fraser said. “It was the weekend weather position but I thought I would give it a try. I was so scared. I walked into his office and in five minutes he had me in tears of laughter. His sense of humor, his wit, his stories. He was the greatest storyteller I’ve ever known in my life.”
Davis pushed young reporters like John Paul to get the story and get it right.
“He was raised in the Cronkite era and before. That’s what he emulated. That’s what he taught many of us to emulate, strong, ethical journalism, fair. That was Paul.”
Davis loved covering breaking news, either by leading the team or getting out there himself. The Kennedy assassination, the campus riots, tornados and more. But when asked what his most memorable story was during our 60th anniversary special, he said this:
“I opened a news release one day that said a nudist group was planning to take over a strip mine up on the north side of the market. I decided that had to be done. And I used every possible pun in developing a four minute story up there.”
Davis left WCIA-3 in 1980. He went on to be the news director at WGN in Chicago and then in Boston. He also served as national president of both the Radio-Television News Directors Association and the Society of Professional Journalists.
Paul said, “He’s an Effingham boy who made good and got to be on a national level from a broadcast standpoint but the Effingham boy never went away.”
It’s not surprising Davis went into news. His mother was the first woman radio news director in the U.S in Effingham. Davis had three children and one of them, his son Glenn, was a producer at WCIA-3.