Legendary actor, writer, director and civil rights activist Ossie Davis died Friday morning of apparent natural causes in his hotel room in Miami Beach, Florida. He was in town to shoot a film called Retirement. One half of a show biz marriage for over 50 years, Davis was married to the actress Ruby Dee and worked with her regularly, starting with the 1948 stageplay Jeb and 1950 film No Way Out. For the next 50 years they appeared together in Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing and Jungle Fever, as well as the TV Mini-series The Stand. A longtime civil rights activist, Davis counted NAACP co-founder W. E. B. DuBois, actor/singer Paul Robeson and Malcom X among his friends and gave the eulogy at Malcom's funeral.
A Well known actor for several generations of film fans, Davis performed in many favorites, including Grumpy Old Men, The Client and I'm Not Rappaport (the film version of the hit Broadway play) and directed Cotton Comes To Harlem, among other films. He was twice nominated for Tony awards and recently received the Kennedy Center Honors, along with Dee.
Davis' death brings the number of noted civil rights activists who have recently passed away to three, including
James Forman on January 10th and my mother,
Grant on January 9th.
(These last two links are to the paid New York Times archives. Free obituaries can be found here for James Forman and Joanne Grant.)