Ossie Davis

Biography

Date of Birth 18 December 1917, Cogdell, Georgia, USA Date of Death 4 February 2005, Miami Beach, Florida, USA (natural causes) Birth Name Raiford Chatman Davis Height 6' 3" (1.91 m) Davis was born Raiford Chatman Davis in Cogdell, Clinch County, Georgia. The name Ossie came from a county clerk who misheard his mother's pronunciation of his initials "R.C." when he was born. Following the wishes of his parents, 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 a butler, that was 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 notable African American directors of his generation. 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, Davis never had the tremendous commercial or critical success that Cosby and Poitier enjoyed. As a playwright, Davis wrote Paul Robeson: All-American, which is frequently performed in theatre programs for young audiences. 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 and served as the narrator of the early-1990s CBS sitcom Evening Shade, starring Burt Reynolds, where he also played one of the residents of a small southern town. In 1948, Ossie Davis married actress Ruby Dee; in their joint autobiography With Ossie and Ruby, they later described their decision to have an open marriage. They were well-known as civil rights activists, and were close personal friends of Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr. and other icons of the era. Davis and Dee's deep involvement in the movment is characterized by how instrumental they were in organizing the 1963 civil rights March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, even to the point of serving as emcee. Davis, alongside Ahmed Osman, 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. Their son Guy Davis is a blues musician and former actor, who appeared in the film Beat Street and the daytime soap opera One Life to Live. Davis was found dead on February 4, 2005, in a hotel room in Miami, Florida, of natural causes. He was in the first stages of working on a film called Retirement. His last role was a several episode guest role on the groundbreaking Showtime drama series The L Word as a father struggling with the acceptance of his daughter Bette (Jennifer Beals) parenting a child with her lesbian partner. In his final episodes, his character was taken ill and died. His wife Ruby Dee was present during the filming of his own death scene. That episode, which aired shortly after Davis's own death, aired with a dedication to the actor. At the 2007 Grammy awards he and his wife were tied winners in the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album with former President Jimmy Carter.

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Birth Name

Raiford Chatman Davis

Birth Place

Cogdell, Georgia

Birth Date

12/18/1917

Death Date

2/4/2005
Known For
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Dinosaur

Yar (voice)

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Dr. Dolittle

Archer Dolittle

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Bubba Ho-tep

Jack

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Do the Right Thing

Da Mayor

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Gladiator

Noah

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12 Angry Men

Juror #2

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Sam Whiskey

Jed Hooker

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I'm Not Rappaport

Midge Carter

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Thomas Jefferson - A Film by Ken Burns

Narrator (voice)

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Finding Buck McHenry

Buck McHenry

Starring In
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Louis Armstrong's Black & Blues

(archive footage)

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50 Years with Peter Paul and Mary

Himself - Actor / Activist (archive footage)

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Third Watch

Mr. Parker (3 episodes, 1999-2000)

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Bob Dylan: No Direction Home

Himself (archive footage)

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She Hate Me

Judge Buchanan

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Proud

Lorenzo DuFau

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Baadasssss!

Granddad

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Deacons for Defense

Reverend 'Rev' Gregory

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Bubba Ho-tep

Jack

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The Feast Of All Saints

Jean-Jacques

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The Legend of the Candy Cane

Julius (voice)

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Dinosaur

Yar (voice)

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Christianity-The First Two Thousand Years

Narrator (unknown episodes)

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Finding Buck McHenry

Buck McHenry

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A Vow to Cherish

Alexander Billman

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The Secret Path

Too Tall

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Dr. Dolittle

Archer Dolittle

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12 Angry Men

Juror #2

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Miss Evers' Boys

Mr. Evers

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4 Little Girls

Himself (Actor / Playwright)

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Thomas Jefferson - A Film by Ken Burns

Narrator (voice)

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I'm Not Rappaport

Midge Carter

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Get on the Bus

Jeremiah

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Ray Alexander: A Menu for Murder

Uncle Phil

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The Client

Harry Roosevelt

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Ray Alexander: A Taste for Justice

Uncle Phil

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Touched by an Angel - The Third Season, Vol. 1

Erasmus Jones / ... (4 episodes, 1996-2002)

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Grumpy Old Men

Chuck

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Cop and A Half

Detective in Squad Room (uncredited)

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The Ernest Green Story

Grandfather

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Malcolm X

Eulogy Performer (voice)

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Gladiator

Noah

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Alex Haley's Queen

Parson Dick

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Jungle Fever

The Good Reverend Doctor Purify

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Joe Versus the Volcano

Marshall

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Do the Right Thing

Da Mayor

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B.L. Stryker: The Complete Series

Oz Jackson / ... (10 episodes, 1989-1990)

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School Daze

Coach Odom

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Avenging Angel

Captain Harry Moradian

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Harry & Son

Raymond

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The House of God

Dr. Sanders

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Death of a Prophet: Malcolm X

Himself

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All God's Children

Blaine Whitfield

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Hot Stuff

Captain John Geiberger

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Freedom Road

Narrator

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King

Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. (3 episodes, 1978)

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Cool Red

Ernest Motapo

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Let's Do It Again

Elder Johnson

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Wattstax

Himself (uncredited)

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Malcolm X

Eulogy (voice)

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The Sheriff

James Lucas

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Night Gallery

Osmund Portifoy

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Sam Whiskey

Jed Hooker

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The Scalphunters

Joseph Lee

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A Man Called Adam

Nelson Davis

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The Hill

Jacko King

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Shock Treatment

Capshaw

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Gone Are the Days!

Reverend Purlie Victorious Judson

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The Cardinal

Father Gillis

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Fourteen Hours

Cab driver (uncredited)

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No Way Out

John Brooks (uncredited)

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