Sculptor chosen to create Georgia MLK statue dies after crash

The McDonough sculptor chosen last month to create a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. for the Georgia State Capitol grounds has died of injuries he sustained in a weekend wreck.

Police said Andy Davis was on his motorcycle about 12:35 a.m. Saturday when he was hit from behind by an allegedly drunk pickup truck driver at a traffic light on Jodeco Road in Henry County, according to the Georgia State Patrol.

Davis was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital in grave condition, and Henry County Coroner Donald Cleveland told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was advised by the hospital that Davis died at 9:50 p.m. Sunday.

Corey Ashton Sease, the 20-year-old man who the GSP said was driving the Toyota pickup truck that hit Davis’s motorcycle, was originally charged with driving under the influence, following too closely and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. On Monday afternoon, authorities announced one count of first-degree vehicular homicide had been added.

Davis created life-sized statues of Ray Charles for Charles’ hometown of Albany and of “give me liberty or give me death” orator Patrick Henry for downtown McDonough, the suburban town Davis calls home.

On June 29, he was chosen to create the statue of Martin Luther King Jr. that will stand on the grounds of the Georgia State Capitol, a job for which he was picked by Gov. Nathan Deal.

The project is now temporarily on hold.

We have to go back to the drawing board,” State Rep. Calvin Smyre, who helped coordinate the project, said Monday.

Smyre said he spent four hours with Davis last week at the King Center.

“We were cutting him a check this week for materials,” he said. “I’m praying for Andy’s family.”

Deal, who announced the project, which came after years of lobbying by African-American leaders, said in a statement he’s “deeply saddened” by Davis’ death.

“This tragedy is not only a loss for his family, but for the Henry County community and our state,” Deal said. “He leaves behind a legacy of excellent work, and I regret that will not include a statue on our Capitol grounds that many generations of Georgians would have admired. Sandra and I offer our prayers, support and encouragement to his family during this difficult time.”

Tributes poured in for Davis from those who knew and worked with him.

“The hearts of each of our citizens, members of the McDonough Arts Council, and The Hood Street Art Center are saddened today by the passing of our friend and master sculptor, Andy Davis,” McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland wrote in a Facebook post. “Please keep his wife, Gerri and their children, Stephanie and Alex, and other family members in your thoughts and prayers.”

Copeland, who said he regularly visited Davis while he worked on the Ray Charles and Patrick Henry sculptures, said he would not let Davis’ vision for the art center wither.

“It’s just so tragic,” Copeland said. “He was about the most talented individual I have ever known. He will be sorely missed.”

Davis didn’t come to his art or to fame early.

Davis sold cars, fixed copiers and melted tar for a roofing crew to pay the bills. Then one morning, when he was 34, he woke up his wife with a revelation.

“I want to be an artist,” he told her. “I really feel like this is what I need to do.”

“Why don’t more people follow their dreams?” Davis asked in a 2014 interview with the AJC. “We’d have more skateboarders, more mountain climbers, more writers. There’d be more love-makers.

“Can you imagine if Monet allowed the world to tell him what to do?” he asked. “Or Henry Ford? Bill Gates?

“Hell! What if the Wright brothers hadn’t followed their dreams?”

Originally from Ocala, Fla., Davis and his family moved to Forest Park when Davis was 5.

“Being around Andy in moments of creativity was like seeing the hands of God at work,” McDonough City Councilwoman Sandra Vincent said on Twitter Sunday morning.

In an interview with Atlanta public radio station WABE that aired just a few days ago, Davis called the MLK commission “a jovial burden” and said he was “floating.”

“To be able to have the nod from the King family and the governor and the state to choose me to do this is quite an honor that I’m going to put my life into — to make sure that everybody’s proud.”

The King statue is slated to go up at the new Liberty Plaza near the Capitol.

“Art is color blind,” Davis said when asked on WABE about being tapped for the King statue as a white man. “Art is not black. It’s not white. It’s not Chinese. It’s not anything. It is what it is. It’s what you bring to it.”

Davis’ statue of Patrick Henry, for whom Henry County is named, was unveiled in March 2014. His Ray Charles statue, which shows the singer at a grand piano, was unveiled in 2007.

— Staff writers Mike Morris and Greg Bluestein contributed to this article.

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