Community mourns loss of artist, friend

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

Friends and admirers in Henry County are in shock after the sudden passing of noted sculptor Andy Davis, who died over the weekend as a result of injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident late Friday night. He was 53.

Remembering Andy – In 2010 artist Andy Davis adopted a duckling named Fionna, shown here from a Times feature story, perched in her favorite spot, on Andy’s shoulder. File photo

Social media was flooded all weekend with well-wishers praying for his recovery, and as Davis passed away dozens of people posted their remembrances of him.

Only two weeks ago Davis was celebrated across the state after being selected to create a statue of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that was to be unveiled at the state Capitol in January on King’s birthday. An image of him already at work on that project graced the front page of this publication one week ago, and he was profiled extensively on Atlanta radio and television as recently as the day of his accident.

According to the Georgia State Patrol’s public information office, the accident took place at about 12:35 a.m. Saturday on Jodeco Road at the I-75 ramp. Davis was stopped at the traffic light at the intersection in the left eastbound travel lane when his motorcycle was struck in the rear by a Toyota pickup truck driven by Corey Ashton Sease, 20. Davis was ejected from the motorcycle and transported to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

A felony arrest warrant was issued Monday regarding Sease for first-degree vehicular homicide, a felony charge that will be combined with the three misdemeanor charges of DUI, following too closely, and possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. The investigation is ongoing.

Davis has operated from his own gallery in McDonough for a number of years and his body of work can be seen literally across the state. He created a statue of Patrick Henry that stands in front of the Henry County courthouse and a likeness of Ray Charles that is displayed in Albany, the late singer’s hometown. There is also a statue of Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy in front of one of his restaurants in Griffin, and many more.

In addition to the MLK project, Davis had been commissioned to create a statue for SunTrust Park, the stadium now under construction in Cobb County that will be the home of the Atlanta Braves beginning in 2017. Simply put, there is not enough space on these pages for a comprehensive listing of his work.

Perhaps his most ambitious endeavor is the Hood Street Art Center, which he conceived long ago and brought to fruition within the past few months. Late last winter Davis took this writer on a tour of the 100-year-old Hood’s Hosiery Mill building just off Hwy. 155/Sims Street and described his vision for what it would eventually contain.

It is already happening, as the building has been totally renovated and various artists have begun working there. The Henry Players are building out their own rehearsal space to be used regularly for the foreseeable future. Davis told the Times two weeks ago that a mid-August reception is being planned for the center just prior to its official grand opening.

Meanwhile, friends and loved ones try to adjust to Davis’ sudden passing.

“I’m in shock,” said Beau Kelley. “Not only is he the most artistically-gifted person I've ever known, he was one of my best friends. I saw him two hours before the accident. He was so excited about all the projects he had on the horizon. I don't think I've ever seen him more happy.”

Kelley said that this is a loss from which the community will never fully recover.

“He was just that important. He was full of soul. He was full of life. I can't wrap my mind around what's it going to be like without him here in McDonough.”

The last project Davis completed was for Larry Hillock, a personal friend. It was a bust of Hillock’s son who had passed away several years earlier. It was not a commissioned work but simply a favor for a friend who had not even asked for it; it was Davis’ idea, as he thought it would helped Hillock deal with his loss. The finished work was presented only a few weeks ago.

“The added bonus now is that not only will it help deal with the tragedy of losing my son, but also in the tragedy of losing a great friend,” Hillock wrote on Facebook last weekend. “Sure, he was an amazing artist, but I will forever remember him as a great friend, and a loving soul. Someone who always brought a smile to everyone around him.”