Sammy Davis Jr. was one of the most successful entertainers of the 20th century, having achieved international acclaim as a dancer and singer. Indeed, he started in the world of vaudeville and eventually performed with the best known entertainers of his era, including becoming the confidants of presidents.
Born on Dec. 8, 1985, Davis started as a child vaudevillian who became known for his performances on Broadway and in Las Vegas. He also went on to become a world famous recording artist and television and film star. Davis was also a member Frank Sinatra’s “Rat Pack,” which made films and was active in the 1960 presidential election of John F. Kennedy.
He appeared in films with his Rat Pack buddies, including Ocean’s 11 in 1960. He was the centerpiece of a great deal of controversy, particularly after his marriage to May Britt, a white Swedish-born actress. He received a good deal of hate mail in an era in which interracial marriage was banned in many states.
He had a complex relationship with the African-American community and attracted criticism after physically embracing President Richard Nixon in 1972. He was later awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP and was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award.
Davis died in Beverly Hills, California, on May 16, 1990, of complications from throat cancer.
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(Photo: Gilles Petard/Redferns)