Ossie Davis was one of the greatest actors to ever grace the American Film screen. He was a humble actor who had no problem taking roles of menial workers. Davis was born on December 18, 1917 in Cogdell, Georgia. His birth name was Raiford Chatman Davis. Davis got the name Ossie because the county clerk did not hear his mother correctly when she told him the initials of his name was R.C; he thought he heard Ossie.
He was a writer and actor, best known for his roles in Doctor Dolittle, Do the Right Thing and Bubba Ho-Tep. His distinguishing trademark was his deep baritone commanding voice. During his younger days he attended Howard University where he studied drama, however he dropped out to pursue a career on stage. But his plans were short lived there as well due to World War II.
He served in the Army Medical Corps in Liberia for about three years. Where he helped establish a hospital there for African-American soldiers. During this time the Army, of course, was still segregated. After his tour of duty, Davis came to New York, and made his Broadway debut in 1946 in Jeb. He met who would be his future wife Ruby Dee, she was one of the cast members. Davis and Ruby Dee married in 1948 and remained married until death departed them. They had a happy and loving marriage, but they were known to have an open marriage as well. The agreed that if it came to wanting to be with someone else that is what they would do. However, they were to always be discreet about it, and never putting their family in harm’s way. Another little-known fact is Ossie and Ruby raised their children with blanket permission to smoke marijuana and have sex, so long as they did these things in the safety of the family home.
He was named to the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame with his wife, Ruby Dee, in 1989. He was also awarded the American National Medal of the Arts in 1995 by the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington, D.C. Both Davis and Dee were civil rights activists. They both maintained a close relationships with Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King Jr. Davis delivered a eulogy at the funeral of Malcolm X and participated in a tribute to King at a New York service for the slain leader.
Before his death he played in a movie with Jennifer Beals on The L Word (2004). In a powerful performance, fitting of his legacy, his character died in the episode “L’Chaim”. His appearance in movies was his final performance before his own death.