Fast Facts

  • Named after his paternal grandfather. Was nicknamed R.C., but a misunderstanding by a courthouse clerk got him the moniker Ossie.
  • First appeared on Broadway in the 1946 production of Jeb, where he met his future wife, Ruby Dee.
  • In 1961, wrote the play Purlie Victorious: A Comedy in Three Acts. It was made into a movie in 1963, with him as the lead actor, and reworked yet again in 1970 for the Broadway musical Purlie.   
  • Helped organize the civil rights movement's 1963 March on Washington.
  • Delivered the eulogy at Malcolm X's funeral in 1965.
  • Howard University gave him an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in 1973.
  • Authored several books, including Just Like Martin in 1992, and With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together, with his wife, in 1998.
  • Inducted into the NAACP's Hall of Fame in 1989.
  • With his wife, received the National Medal of Arts Lifetime Honors in 1995; a Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in 2000; and Kennedy Center Honors in 2004. 
  • Often acted alongside his wife.


  • 2005, Emmy — Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1969, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Nominee
  • 1997, Emmy — Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Special: Nominee
  • 2006, Grammy — Best Spoken Word Album: Winner
  • 1969, Emmy — Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Nominee
  • 1970, Tony — Musical: Nominee
  • 1978, Emmy — Outstanding Continuing Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Nominee
  • 1958, Tony — Actor, Supporting or Featured (Musical): Nominee
  • 2000, Screen Actors Guild Awards — Life Achievement Award: Winner


  • Nora Day — Daughter
  • Kince Charles Davis — Father
  • William Davis — Brother
  • Hasna Muhammad — Daughter
  • Laura Davis — Mother
  • Guy Davis — Son
  • Ruby Dee — Wife


  • Attended Howard University, Washington, DC; attended Columbia University, New York, NY

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  • Birth Name: Raiford Chatman Davis
  • Birth Place: Cogdell, GA
  • Died: February 4, 2005
  • Profession: Actor, Playwright, Activist

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