Ruby Dee wasn’t just a generational star. She was a once in a century type of talent, having appeared in dozens of stage film and television roles over the course of her storied career.
Born Ruby Ann Wallace in 1922, Dee would marry blues singer Frankie Dee in 1945. Divorcing him soon after, she kept his surname for professional purposes. She later met actor Ossie Davis and three years later they were married in a relationship that lasted from 1917 until his death in 2005. She would give birth to three children: son, Guy Davis and daughters Nora Day and Hasna Muhammad.
Ruby’s career not only spanned time, but mediums as well. Though she had been working on Broadway before marriage, Dee would first burst onto the scene in 1950 for her role in The Jackie Robinson Story. Her eight-decade-long career featured her role in Edge of the City and A Raisin in the Sun, both on stage and in film. She even appeared in an episode of The Golden Girls.
A shining diamond of a matriarch for Black Hollywood throughout the span of her days, the Emmy-winning actress and her husband Ossie Davis wrote the poetic My One Good Nerve: Rhythms, Rhymes, Reasons in 1986 and the autobiographical With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together in 1998.
Not only did Dee have a storied career under the bright lights of Broadway and up on the silver screen, but she was an accomplished poet, screenwriter, journalist and activist.
Both Dee and Davis were known for their involvement in the civil rights movement with Ruby having membership status in the Congress of Racial Equality, the NAACP, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She was also close friends with Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X. Ossie Davis gave the eulogy at the funeral of El-Haj Malik Shabazz in 1965. Ruby and Ossie, posthumously, were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Freedom Award by the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis in 2005. A longtime resident of New Rochelle, New York, Ruby and was inducted into the New Rochelle Walk of Fame, which honors residents of the town throughout its 325 year history.
Dying of natural causes on June 11, at 91 years old, in her New Rochelle residence, the great Ruby Dee is yet another American Icon leaving a gaping hole in our hearts, filled with reverence, love, and unforgettable memories of greatness.