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Monday, February 14, 2005

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  • Remembering Ossie Davis 1917-2005: Maya Angelou, Harry Belafonte, Bill Clinton Pay Tribute to the Famed Actor & Civil Rights Activist

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    On Saturday thousands of mourners filled Riverside Church in Harlem for the funeral of Ossie Davis. Davis died Feb. 4 while on location for a film in Florida. He was 87 years old. For five decades, Ossie Davis led a distinguished career as an actor, playwright and director. Along with his wife, Ruby Dee, he was a renowned civil rights activist and an unforgettable figure in the African American struggle for equality. Speakers at Saturday’s funeral described the event as a state funeral for black America.

    In his eulogy, Harry Belafonte said, "Among many gifts mastered, he was foremost a master of language. He understood the power of words and used them to articulate our deepest hope for the fulfillment of our oneness, with all humanity. Ossie Davis was born into a time of great promise. And guided by his fervent dedication to justice. He wasted no opportunity in defending the causes of the poor, the humiliated, the oppressed."

    Poet Maya Angelou said, "He belonged to us. He exists in us. We can be, and be more, every day more. Larger, kinder, truer, more honest, more courageous, and more loving because Ossie Davis existed and belonged to all of us."

    Former President Bill Clinton said, "[Ossie Davis] would have been a very good President of the United States."

    We spend the hour hearing excerpts from the funeral service: Belafonte eulogizing Ossie Davis as well as tributes from President Bill Clinton, writer Maya Angelou, Malcolm X’s daughter Attallah Shabazz, Davis’ grandson Brian Day and a musical tribute by jazz musician Wynton Marsalis. [includes rush transcript]