SEABROOK – Every day, Mark Brady received a phone call from his friend, Jim Davis. The two knew each other since meeting at the Branchville Volunteer Fire Department in College Park in the late 1970s.
Despite their friendship, Davis, a reporter for the Prince George’s Sentinel, called for more than just a quick chat between pals.
After his time as a firefighter, Davis became an experienced breaking news reporter, covering mostly crime and fire stories.
Brady, who was the press information officer for Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department, knew what the calls were for and did not mind them.
“A day did not go by where I called Jim or Jim called me,” Brady said. “He was very active in what goes on day-to-day with what was going on in the fire service. If he heard a rumor about something he was interested in, he would call me to verify it.”
Davis died on May 21, 2018, leaving a hole in the Sentinel’s coverage in crime and fire reporting. Those who remembered Davis recalled him as a decorated reporter, doing anything possible to obtain the story.
Davis entered the Branchville Volunteer Fire Department in 1978 and enjoyed being a part of the crew. However, an injury limited his stay with the department and turned his focus into journalism.
Prince George’s Police Department Press Information Officer Jennifer Donelan can recall meeting him during her time as a reporter for television outlet ABC-7. Her husband is a Washington, D.C. firefighter, and she would routinely see him at fire department-related functions as well as at the crime scene at several incidents in the county.
“Jim was the ultimate newsman,” Donelan said. “You could always count on him to be at the scene, and if you did not see him there, that was odd. You were just always expecting to see Jim Davis there.”
Davis’ connections to both departments allowed him to expand his coverage, including features with firefighters and going on ride-along sessions with county paramedics. He was also delicate in topics the other firefighters did not want him to report on, Brady said. At functions, Brady was seen asking firefighters permission to take photos or to ask if he could report on the details they saw.
“He was familiar with the fire service,” Brady said. “He was friendly with the people at the fire service and knew a lot of them, and that friendship allowed him to get better access to the scene and get interviews that other reporters couldn’t get.”
Meanwhile, as Donelan switched over to become the county police department’s PIO, they kept their friendship cordial and separate from their work. At press conferences, Davis made his presence known at press conferences by always attending and having questions ready.
“Jim always stood out at press conferences,” Donelan said. “Because if Jim was not ready, he would let us know he was not ready, and we all waited for him, that’s for sure.”
Towards the end of his life, Davis was living with a lot of pain. His long-time companion, Cindy, died in Dec. 15, 2014, after 30 years of being together. Brady, who admits they had a very “involved friendship,” recalled having to take him to his doctor’s appointments. Davis was 66 years old when he died.
Since his death, Donelan said that Davis’ knowledge of the county and its history is a missing piece part of today’s news coverage. When Davis died, a piece of the county’s history went with him, she said.
“I was shocked when I learned about the passing of Jim Davis,” Donelan said. “It was completely unexpected, and I cannot say enough that he was a fixture and a part of the fabric of this county, the fabric of incident scenes when you went out there. Jim not being there, you can feel that to this day.”
Thinking about his death, Brady said he recalled all the times they spoke during their daily calls. To him, Davis was a good reporter and was a well-known figure around the fire service community, which will be a lasting part of his legacy in Prince George’s County.
“I’ve been thinking about Jim a lot lately,” Sentinel Executive Editor Daniel Kucin Jr. said. “He was a consummate professional that loved to be a part of the action all the time; he always let people in the community know what was going on around him.
“Jim would come into my office and converse with me about work and life a lot and was one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met, and that is really saying something. I just hope that he sees this tribute to him in heaven, smiling, and know that we will always miss him as a friend and as an extraordinary journalist and photographer.”