Born Rayford Chatman Davis in 1917 in Cogdell, Georgia, in Clinch County, he got his nickname from the way his mother pronounced his initials. Davis served in Africa in World War II, and made his Broadway debut in 1946 in the play Jeb, where he fell in love with fellow cast member Ruby Dee. Their 50-year marriage was one of the most creative in entertainment history, opening doors for generations of black artists.
Davis made his movie debut with Sidney Poitier in 1950. As roles for black actors increased, he became a TV regular in the 1960s.
Along with acting, Davis and Dee were civil rights activists. They were masters of ceremonies for the 1963 March on Washington, where Davis announced the death of W.E.B. Dubois. In 1965, he delivered the eulogy for Malcolm X.
One of the most influential and beloved black artists of the 20th century died on February 4, 2005, Today in Georgia History.
Ossie Davis and his wife Ruby Dee tied with former President Jimmy Carter for the Best Spoken Word Album at the 2007 Grammys.