Ruby Dee, an actor and civil rights activist whose versatile career spanned stage, radio, television and film, died Wednesday at the age of 91.
The Ohio native was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in the 2007 film "American Gangster." She also won an Emmy and was nominated for several others. Dee returned to Ohio to act and to teach acting many times. Kabir Bhatia of member station WKSU in Kent reports.
Ruby Dee was born in Cleveland and moved with her family to Harlem as a baby. She made her debut here at the Hanna Theater, in a touring production of “Anna Lucasta” in the late ‘40s. Soon, she was on the silver screen in films like “A Raisin in the Sun” and “The Jackie Robinson Story.” But she often found time to return to Cleveland, both at PlayHouse Square and the Karamu House Theater,where Artistic Director Terence Spivey worked with Dee twice.
“She was so giving with young artists, and so giving with me. She just wanted to be part of the ensemble. It wasn’t about her being a legend. It was about, ‘Let me fit in with what you’re doing here.’ I told her, ‘Ms. Dee, 10 percent of you is 200 percent of anybody else.’ She was just amazing.”
Spivey says he’d discussed bringing Dee back to Cleveland in “Saint Lucy’s Eyes,” written specifically for the actress in 2002. Spivey now says he’d like to stage the piece as a tribute.
In addition to being an Emmy- and Grammy-winning performer, Dee and husband Ossie Davis were friends of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., appearing with him at the March on Washington in 1963.
Dee and Davis were married for 57 years, until his death in 2005. They had three children together, including blues singer, Guy Davis.