Birth Date: December 18, 1917
Birth Place: Cogdell, Georgia, USA
Date of Death: February 4, 2005 / Age: 87
Location of Death: Miami Beach, Florida, USA
Cause of Death: natural causes
Biography: Ossie Davis (December 18, 1917–February 4, 2005) was an African-American actor, film director, and activist.
Davis was born Raiford Chatman Davis in Cogdell, Georgia. Following his parents' wishes, he attended Howard University, graduating in 1938. His acting career, which spanned seven decades, began in 1939 with the Rose McClendon Players in Harlem. He made his film debut in 1950 in the Sidney Poitier film No Way Out.
Davis experienced many of the same struggles that most African-American actors of his generation underwent; he wanted to act but he did not want to play stereotypical subservient roles, such as butler, that were the standard for black actors of his generation. Instead, he tried to follow the example of Sidney Poitier and play more distinguished characters. When he found it necessary to play a Pullman porter or a butler, he tried to inject the role with a certain degree of dignity.
In addition to acting, Davis, along with Melvin Van Peebles, was one of the first African-American directors. Along with Bill Cosby and Poitier, Davis was one of a handful of African-American actors able to find commercial success while avoiding stereotypical roles prior to 1970. However, it should be noted that Davis never had the tremendous commercial or critical success that Cosby and Poitier enjoyed.
Davis found recognition late in his life by working in several of director Spike Lee's films, including Do The Right Thing, Jungle Fever, She Hate Me and Get on the Bus. He also found work as a commercial voice-over artist.
Ossie Davis and his wife, actor Ruby Dee (they married in 1948), were well-known civil rights activists, being personal friends of Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr. and others. Davis and Dee helped organize (and served as MCs for) the 1963 civil rights March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Davis delivered the eulogy at the funeral of Malcolm X; he re-read part of this eulogy at the end of Spike Lee's film Malcolm X. He also delivered the eulogy for Martin Luther King, Jr.
Davis and wife Ruby Dee were recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004. They were also named to the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame in 1989.
Davis was found dead on February 4th 2005, in a hotel room in Miami, Florida, of natural causes. He was in the first stages of working on a film called "Retirement. Prior to that he had had a guest role on the groundbreaking Showtime drama series, the L Word as a father struggling with the acceptance of his daughter parenting a child with her lesbian partner, after which his character is taken ill and dies. His wife Ruby Dee was present during the filming of his own death scene.