Donna Britt, longtime Baton Rouge TV anchor, dies at age 62

Louisiana

Longtime WAFB anchor Donna Britt waves as she sees her husband and son in the studio, Wednesday, June 13, 2018, as she signs off for one last time at WAFB studios in downtown Baton Rouge, La. Britt, who capped a nearly four-decade Louisiana broadcast journalism career with periodic on-air chronicles of her battle against a debilitating neurological disease, died Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Baton Rouge. She was 62. (Hilary Scheinuk/The Advocate via AP)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Donna Britt, who capped a nearly four-decade Louisiana broadcast journalism career with periodic on-air chronicles of her battle against a debilitating neurological disease, died Thursday in Baton Rouge. She was 62.

WAFB-TV, where Britt rose from fledgling reporter to longtime, market-dominating evening anchor after joining the station in 1981, announced her death. Her husband, Mark Ballard, Capitol Bureau editor for The Advocate, said she died at home surrounded by family.

Britt learned in 2017 that she had Lou Gehrig’s disease, another name for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

“Three days of testing in Houston, Texas — six doctors, 12 tests — shows that I have ALS,” she told viewers in 2017. In June 2018, her ability to stand, walk, write and speak diminishing, she announced her retirement.

Britt, who grew up in Biloxi, Mississippi, majored in music at LSU — she played oboe, violin and piano and composed music. She had been working as a disc jockey at WYNK radio when WAFB management heard her and recruited her.

“The best anchorwoman I ever worked with was Donna Britt,” George Sells, her co-anchor from 1988 to 2012 said in The Advocate. “I’m talking about aggressiveness, ability to dig out a story on the telephone when nobody wanted to give it to us. … She could write.”

She was also celebrated in Baton Rouge for civic and volunteer efforts that included work with Susan G. Komen Baton Rouge, Volunteers in Public Schools and numerous other organizations. Every Christmas season for years, Britt would stand with a red kettle and ring a bell to solicit donations for the Salvation Army.

“To know Donna was to love her,” Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said in a social media tribute. “She poured out her life to this community and we are richer for it.”

Britt is survived by her husband and their daughter and son.

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