Last night (December 9), longtime WWLTV reporter and cherished local celebrity Frank Davis died at age 71 from complications caused by chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIPD), a rare, autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the insulation protecting its nerves as well as the nerve cells themselves. In May, Frank and his wife revealed his diagnosis in a WWLTV segment, and in July, the station reported that Davis had undergone surgery in an effort to slow the debilitating illness’ progression.
From 1981 to 2011 Davis’ weekly “Fishin’ Game Report,” cooking and “Naturally N’awlins” segments took Eye Witness News viewers to South Louisiana’s best fishing spots, showed them how to cook the area’s signature dishes, and gave them a glimpse into the culture’s one-of-a-kind customs and traditions. Davis’ gregarious personality, heartfelt enthusiasm, lively spirit and down-home sense of humor engendered him to locals and denizens young and old throughout the surrounding parishes.
A University of New Orleans graduate, Davis’ career as a journalist began in the Sixties when he served as the Associate Editor of The Louisiana Conservationist for the state’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. In 1974, Davis took his coverage of the Sportsman’s Paradise to the airwaves as a WWL Radio correspondent. His popular Weekend Live call-in program led to a full-time radio position in 1980, and the following year, Davis made his WWLTV debut. There, his homespun adventures took on a life of their own, and Frank’s flavorful recipes and fun-loving, offbeat frankness made Davis an on-air favorite. Since its initial airing more than two decades ago, the annual rebroadcast of Davis’ “Naturally N’awlins” segment featuring Benny Grunch and the Bunch’s video for the “12 Yats of Christmas” has become a holiday season staple within the New Orleans metropolitan area.
Off-air, Davis relished his role as a spokesperson for Southern Louisiana, making countless appearances across the region, giving cooking demonstrations, and speaking out in support of several charities. In addition to penning numerous books on his favorite subjects — Cajun and Creole cuisine and fishing South Louisiana’s marshes, bays, lakes and bayous — Davis launched his own line of cooking spices and supplies. The Frank Davis Fishing Pier — which is located under the Seabrook Bridge on Lakeshore Drive, open 24 hours a day and handicapped accessible — was constructed in Davis’ honor. Upon Davis’ 2011 retirement, friend and fellow outdoors fanatic Don Dubuc took over WWLTV’s “Fish and Game Report.” In late October, WWLTV donated the Frank Davis Recipe Collection, which encompasses more than 7,500 of Davis’ recipes, to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.
Davis is survived by wife his wife of 45 years and television cooking parter Mary Clare, daughter Amanda, mother, son-in-law and four grandchildren.