GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was called Uncle Tom, kissing up to the White man, not marrying into his race and even being a republican. I will always remember him for the longevity, his passion for his craft and always finding ways to stay in the “Main Stream” of American entertainment. He was an American singer, dancer, actor, vaudevillian and comedian whom critic Randy Blaser called “the greatest entertainer ever to grace a stage in these United States.” At age three, he began his career in vaudeville with his father and the Will Mastin Trio, which toured nationally, and his film career began in 1933. After military service, he returned to the trio and became an overnight sensation following a nightclub performance at Ciro’s (in West Hollywood) after the 1951 Academy Awards. With the trio, he became a recording artist. In 1954, at the age of 29, he lost his left eye in a car accident. Several years later, he converted to Judaism, finding commonalities between the oppression experienced by African-American and Jewish communities. After a starring role on Broadway in Mr. Wonderful with Chita Rivera (1956), he returned to the stage in 1964 in a musical adaptation of Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy opposite Paula Wayne. He was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance and the show was said to have featured the first interracial kiss on Broadway. In 1960, He appeared in the Rat Pack film Ocean’s 11. In 1966, he had his own TV variety show, while his career slowed in the late 1960s, his biggest hit, “The Candy Man”, reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in June 1972, and he became a star in Las Vegas, earning him the nickname “Mister Show Business”.His popularity helped break the race barrier of the segregated entertainment industry. He did however have a complex relationship with the black community and drew criticism after publicly supporting President Richard Nixon in 1972.One day on a golf course with Jack Benny, he was asked what his handicap was. “Handicap?” he asked. “Talk about handicap. I’m a one-eyed Negro who’s Jewish.” This was to become a signature comment, recounted in his autobiography and in many articles. After reuniting with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in 1987, he toured with them and Liza Minnelli internationally, before his death in 1990. He died in debt to the Internal Revenue Service, and his estate was the subject of legal battles after the death of his wife.He was awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award for his television performances. He was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 1987, and in 2001, he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.Today in our History – May 16, 1990 Samuel George Davis Jr. (December 8, 1925 – May 16, 1990) died.Davis was an avid photographer who enjoyed shooting pictures of family and acquaintances. His body of work was detailed in a 2007 book by Burt Boyar titled Photo by Sammy Davis, Jr. “Jerry [Lewis] gave me my first important camera, my first 35 millimeter, during the Ciro’s period, early ’50s,” Boyar quotes Davis as saying. “And he hooked me.” Davis used a medium format camera later on to capture images. Boyar reports that Davis had said, “Nobody interrupts a man taking a picture to ask… ‘What’s that nigger doin’ here?'” His catalog includes rare photos of his father dancing onstage as part of the Will Mastin Trio and intimate snapshots of close friends Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, James Dean, Nat “King” Cole, and Marilyn Monroe. His political affiliations also were represented, in his images of Robert Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. His most revealing work comes in photographs of wife May Britt and their three children,Tracey, Jeff and Mark.Davis was an enthusiastic shooter and gun owner. He participated in fast-draw competitions. Johnny Cash recalled that Davis was said to be capable of drawing and firing a Colt Single Action Army revolver in less than a quarter of a second. Davis was skilled at fast and fancy gunspinning and appeared on television variety shows showing off this skill. He also demonstrated gunspinning to Mark on The Rifleman in “Two Ounces of Tin.” He appeared in western films and as a guest star on several television westerns.Davis was a registered Democrat and supported John F. Kennedy’s 1960 election campaign as well as Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 campaign. John F. Kennedy would later refuse to allow Davis to perform at his inauguration on account of his marriage with the white actress May Britt. Nancy Sinatra revealed in her 1986 book Frank Sinatra: My Father how Kennedy had planned to snub Davis as plans for his wedding to Britt were unfolding. He went on to become a close friend of President Richard Nixon (a Republican) and publicly endorsed him at the 1972 Republican National Convention. Davis also made a USO tour to South Vietnam at Nixon’s request.In February 1972, during the later stages of the Vietnam War, Davis went to Vietnam to observe military drug abuse rehabilitation programs and talk to and entertain the troops. He did this as a representative from President Nixon’s Special Action Office For Drug Abuse Prevention. He performed shows for up to 15,000 troops; after one two-hour performance he reportedly said, “I’ve never been so tired and felt so good in my life.” The U.S. Army made a documentary about Davis’s time in Vietnam performing for troops on behalf of Nixon’s drug treatment program. Nixon invited Davis and his wife, Altovise, to sleep in the White House in 1973, the first time African-Americans were invited to do so. The Davises spent the night in the Lincoln Bedroom. Davis later said he regretted supporting Nixon, accusing Nixon of making promises on civil rights that he did not keep. Davis was a longtime donor to the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH organization and later supported Jackson’s 1984 campaign for President. In August 1989, Davis began to develop symptoms: a tickle in his throat and an inability to taste food. Doctors found a cancerous tumor in Davis’ throat. He was a heavy smoker and had often smoked four packs of cigarettes a day as an adult. When told that surgery (laryngectomy) offered him the best chance of survival, Davis replied he would rather keep his voice than have a part of his throat removed; he was initially treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. His larynx was later removed when his cancer recurred.He was released from the hospital on March 13, 1990. Davis died of complications from throat cancer two months later at his home in Beverly Hills, California, on May 16, 1990, at age 64. He was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. On May 18, 1990, two days after his death, the neon lights of the Las Vegas Strip were darkened for ten minutes as a tribute. Davis left the bulk of his estate, estimated at $4,000,000 to his widow, Altovise Davis, but he owed the IRS $5,200,000 which, after interest and penalties, had increased to over $7,000,000. His widow, Altovise Davis, became liable for his debt because she had co-signed his tax returns. She was forced to auction his personal possessions and real estate. Some of his friends in the industry, including Quincy Jones, Joey Bishop, Ed Asner, Jayne Meadows, and Steve Allen, participated in a fundraising concert at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.Altovise Davis and the IRS reached a settlement in 1997. After she died in 2009, their son Manny was named executor of the estate and majority-rights holder of his intellectual property. Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!