NEW YORK (AP) — Ruby Dee, an acclaimed actor and civil rights activist whose versatile career spanned stage, radio television and film, has died at age 91, according to her daughter.
Nora Davis Day told The Associated Press yesterday that her mother died at home at New Rochelle, N.Y., on Wednesday night of “natural causes.”
Dee, who frequently acted alongside her husband of 56 years, Ossie Davis, was surrounded by family and friends, she added.
“We have had her for so long and we loved her so much,” Day said. “She took her final bow last night at home surrounded by her children and grandchildren.”
Day added: “We gave her our permission to set sail,” said Day. “She opened her eyes, closed her eyes and away she went.”
Her long career brought her an Oscar nomination at age 83 for best supporting actress for her role in the 2007 film “American Gangster.” She also won an Emmy and was nominated for several others. Age didn’t slow her down.
“I think you mustn’t tell your body, you mustn’t tell your soul, ‘I’m going to retire,’” Dee told The Associated Press in 2001. “You may be changing your life emphasis, but there’s still things that you have in mind to do that now seems the right time to do. I really don’t believe in retiring as long as you can breathe.”
Since meeting on Broadway in 1946, she and her late husband were frequent collaborators. Their partnership rivaled the achievements of other celebrated performing couples, such as Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy.
But they were more than a performing couple. They were also activists who fought for civil rights, particularly for blacks.
“We used the arts as part of our struggle,” she said at an appearance in Jackson, Miss., in 2006. “Ossie said he knew he had to conduct himself differently with skill and thought.”