Sammy Davis Jr. aka ‘Mr. Entertainment’ was an actor, comedian, singer and dancer, and part of the Rat Pack with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, with whom he starred in several films.
Born Samuel George Davis Jr. on December 8, 1925, in New York City, it didn’t take long for him to realize he wanted to be an entertainer. After his parents split up when he was 3, Davis lived with his father and soon began a career tap-dancing in vaudeville. He, his father and Will Mastin performed as the Will Mastin Trio until Davis left to serve in the United States Army during World War II. During his time in the service, he overcame racial prejudice by joining the entertainment unit.
Upon returning home, Davis resumed his showbiz career, performing stand up, acting and recording music. In 1956, Davis starred on Broadway in Mr. Wonderful, and in 1964 in Golden Boy. His refusal to appear in any clubs that practiced racial segregation led to the integration of several venues in Miami Beach and Las Vegas. While Davis found his greatest success as a performer in the 1950s and ’60s, he continued to entertain and record until the early 1980s.
Davis was involved in a serious automobile accident in 1954, and lost his left eye as a result. While in the hospital, recovering from the accident, the famous performer began studying Judaism, reading, among other works, Paul Johnson’s book A History of Jews. Several years later, Davis—who was raised as a Roman Catholic—converted to Judaism. While Davis was active in the civil rights movement, he broke with many in the African American community by openly supporting President Richard Nixon in his 1972 bid for reelection—most African Americans opposed him.
Sadly, cancer ended his life on May 16th, 1990 but he’d long since sung and danced his way into immortality. A final world tour in 1988/89 with Sinatra and Martin will long be remembered, even though Liza Minnelli had to take Dean’s place when ill health forced him to drop out. But Davis sang and danced on. ‘Sammy knew he was dying back then,’ Sinatra later revealed, ‘but you never expect it to come to that. We all think we’ll live forever.’
Source: Sammy Davis Jr. Site