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Otis Redding died December 10, 1967


At age 26, Otis Redding and four members of his Bar-Kays band were killed when their plane crashed into Lake Monona near Madison, Wisconsin.  Only three days earlier, Redding had recorded what would become his biggest hit – “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” – which rose to the top of the charts the following February.  In 1969, Redding was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Joe Williams was born December 12, 1912


Renowned Jazz and blues vocalist Joe Williams was born in Cordele, Georgia as Joseph Goreed.  After his father left, his mother moved to Chicago to find work to support her family.  At age four, Goreed and his grandmother and aunt moved to Chicago to join his mother.  Here, he experienced the excitement of Chicago’s black music scene, which led him to learn to sing and to play the piano.  By his teens, he was performing as solo vocalist with local bands – a fact that led him to drop out of school and adopt the stage name of Joe Williams.  During the 1930s, he performed with various bands, but his first break came in 1942, when Lionel Hampton hired him.  Later, with the Count Basie Band, Williams developed into one of the country’s greatest male jazz vocalists.


Ossie Davis was born December 18, 1917


Born in Cogdell, Georgia, the physically imposing, passionate black actor of stage and screen was also known for his writing and directing ability.  Although he was a college graduate, Davis labored in many menial jobs and served a stint in the Army during World War II before making his Broadway debut in 1946.  He first appeared on-screen in No Way Out (1950), supporting Sidney Poitier (also making his film debut) and appearing with Ruby Dee, who became his wife.  It was another 13 years before Davis reached the screen again, in Gone Are The Days (1963), an adaptation of his own play “Purlie Victorious.”  He acted in The Cardinal (1963), Shock Treatment (1964), The Hill (1965), A Man Called Adam (1966), The Scalphunters (1968), Sam Whiskey and Slaves (both 1969) before becoming the director of Cotton Comes To Harlem (1970, which he co-wrote), a fast moving crime drama about two unorthodox black cops.  Davis also directed Black Girl (1972), Gordon’s War (1973), and Countdown at Kusini (1976).  Still busy (with a supporting role on “Evening Shade” 1990-1994), he has had a particularly fruitful association with filmmaker Spike Lee, appearing School Daze (1988), Do the Right Thing (1989), and Jungle Fever (1991).  In Lee’s Malcolm X (1992), he reads the eulogy he’s delivered at the black leader’s funeral, which he also reads on the soundtrack of the 1972 documentary Malcolm X.


Jefferson F. Long was born on December 20, 1870


Long of Macon, Georgia was elected to an unexpired term in the Forty-first Congress.  Georgia Democrats carried the state election with a campaign of violence and political intimidation.


Josh Gibson was born on December 21, 1911


Known as the black Babe Ruth, Josh Gibson, born in Buena Vista, Georgia on this day in 1911, was probably the most powerful baseball player of his time.  He played in the Negro League.


Gertrude “Ma” Rainey died on December 22, 1939


Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, known as the “Mother of the Blues,” died at age 53 in Rome, Ga.  Born in Columbus on April 26, 1886, Gertrude Melissa Pridgett began singing at the Springer Opera House at age 14.  She subsequently joined black vaudeville troupes and minstrel shows touring the South.  Performing in tent shows, the groups mainly sang popular music hits.  But shortly after she married “Pa” Rainey at age 18, “Ma” Rainey began bringing the audience something different.  She began working into her act plaintive, poignant music she had first overheard a young Missouri woman sing.  As the music she dubbed “the blues” caught on, Rainey’s fame grew.  She was one of the first female artists to record the blues professionally.  In 1934, she retired and purchased two theaters – one in Columbus and one in Rome – which she managed until her death.


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