Renowned actor Ossie Davis, who advocated social and racial justice in life and on stage, has died at the age of 87.
Davis was found dead Friday (Feb. 4) in his Shore Club Hotel room in Miami Beach, Florida, according to the Associated Press. Davis’ grandson called officials early morning after Davis would not open his
Born Raiford Chatman Davis, the highly revered actor wrote, acted, directed and produced numerous works for Hollywood and theater. He appeared in the Spike Lee films, “School Daze,” “Do the Right Thing” and “Jungle Fever,” and had just begun work on his new film, “Retirement” on Monday, his agent Michael Livingston told the AP.
“I’m absolutely shocked,” said Livingston. “He was the most wonderful man I’ve ever known. Such a classy, kindly man.”
Davis and his wife Ruby Dee, a veteran black actress, worked side by side in numerous films throughout their careers. The pair celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1998 and published a dual autobiography titled “In This Life Together.”
As civil rights activists, Davis and Dee played dynamic roles in the black community and the entertainment industry. Prior to November elections last year, Davis joined with members in Hip-Hop, including Questlove of the Roots, to ensure that voters would not be misinformed or discouraged from voting in elections. Davis and Michael Holman of ’80’s hip-hop show “Graffiti Rock,” produced a public service announcement in an effort to thwart voter intimidation.
As a youngster, Davis, a Georgia native, associated and aligned with various leading black figures, including W.E.B. DuBois, singer Paul Robeson, A. Philip Randolph, poet/author Langston Hughes and author Richard Wright. Davis and Dee were also close friends with Malcolm X, as well as baseball legend Jackie Robinson. Davis gave the eulogy at Malcolm X’s funeral and performed the voice-over for Spike Lee’s 1992 film “Malcolm X.”
Queensbridge rapper Nas, who has frequently paid homage to his career influences and commented on social injustices in his rhymes, compared himself to Davis in a song from Tupac’s Better Dayz album. Nas raps, “This whole year’s been crazy/Asked the Holy Spirit to save me/Only difference from me and Ossie Davis, gray hair maybe.”
Davis and Dee took to the airwaves in the 1970s with their radio show,”The Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee Story Hour,” which ran for four years.Both also played key roles in the 1978 television series “Roots: TheNext Generation” and “Martin Luther King: The Dream and the Drum” in1986. Davis has appeared in the films, “The Hill,” “Grumpy Old Men,” and “The Client,” and starred in “Miss Evers’ Boys” and “Twelve Angry Men” on television.
Davis is survived by Dee and their three children.