- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — Ossie Davis, the imposing, unshakable actor who championed racial justice on stage, on screen and in real life, often in tandem with his wife, Ruby Dee, has died. He was 87.

Mr. Davis was found dead yesterday in his hotel room in Miami Beach, Fla., according to officials there. He was making a film called “Retirement,” said Arminda Thomas, who works in his office in suburban New Rochelle and confirmed the death.

Miami Beach police spokesman Bobby Hernandez said Mr. Davis’ grandson called shortly before 7 a.m. when Mr. Davis would not open the door to his room at the Shore Club Hotel.

Mr. Davis was found dead, and there does not appear to have been any foul play, Mr. Hernandez said.

Mr. Davis, who wrote, acted, directed and produced for the theater and Hollywood, was a central figure among black performers for decades. He and Miss Dee celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1998 with the publication of a dual autobiography, “In This Life Together.”

The couple first appeared together in the plays “Jeb,” in 1946, and “Anna Lucasta,” in 1946-47.

Both had key roles in the television series “Roots: The Next Generation” (1978), “Martin Luther King: The Dream and the Drum” (1986) and “The Stand” (1994). Mr. Davis appeared in three Spike Lee films, including “School Daze,” “Do the Right Thing” and “Jungle Fever.” Miss Dee also appeared in the latter two.

In 2004, the couple were among the artists selected to receive the Kennedy Center Honors.

When not on stage or on camera, Mr. Davis and Miss Dee were deeply involved in civil rights issues and efforts to promote the cause of blacks in the entertainment industry.

Actor Roy Scheider, who had performed with Mr. Davis and attended anti-war rallies with him, called Mr. Davis and Miss Dee “the first political couple of America.”

“Ossie seemed to always show up at the right time, on the right side, which was always the human side,” Mr. Scheider said. “He was always progressive and had a very heartfelt sympathy for all people everywhere.”

Mr. Davis had just started his new movie Monday, said Michael Livingston, his Hollywood agent.

“I’m shocked,” Mr. Livingston said. “I’m absolutely shocked. He was the most wonderful man I’ve ever known. Such a classy, kindly man.” Miss Dee had gone to New Zealand to make a movie there, Mr. Livingston said.

The oldest of five children, Mr. Davis was born in Cogdell, Ga., in 1917 and grew up in nearby Waycross and Valdosta. He left home in 1935, hitchhiking to Washington to enter Howard University, where he studied drama.

His career as an actor began in 1939 with the Rose McClendon Players in Harlem, then the center of black culture in America.

Mr. Davis spent nearly four years in the service during World War II, mainly as a surgical technician in an Army hospital in Liberia, serving both wounded troops and local inhabitants.

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