Tracey Davis is the daughter of singer and entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. and actress May Britt who died on November 2, according to her husband Guy Garner. She was 59 years old.
Garner told the Associated Press that Davis died on November 2 in Franklin, Tennessee, after suffering from an illness for a short period of time. Garner told the agency, “She loved and adored her kids more than anything. Needless to say, they are all shocked and devastated by the loss of their mother, as are Tracey’s mother, May Britt Ringquist and her brothers.” Davis was born to the couple in July 1961.
Sammy Davis Jr. was married to Swedish actress May Britt Ringquist, now 87, between 1960 and 1968. At the time of the divorce, reports said Ringquist sought full custody of Davis, as well as the couple’s sons, Mark and Jeff.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Davis Said Her Father Didn’t Attend Her College Graduation but Their Relationship ‘Evolved’ Over the Years
Davis wrote about her experiences growing up as the daughter of one of the most famous entertainers in the world in the 1996 book Sammy Davis Jr.: My Father. Davis returned to the same subject for her 2014 book, Sammy Davis Jr.: A Personal Journey With My Father. In her second book, Davis said that as a result of her parents’ interracial relationship, he was denied a performance at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, according to ABC News.
A May 2014 Los Angeles Times feature on her second book described Davis as a TV producer in Tennessee and a mother of four. Davis told the newspaper that she had a difficult relationship with her father, who “was married to his work,” in her youth. She told the Times “he didn’t know how to prioritize family because work was his passion” and said her father “didn’t even attend her college graduation.” But later in life they developed “a strong bond.” Davis said that the pair’s relationship “evolved” as she got older.
2. Davis Said: ‘My Mom Loved My Dad Like Crazy & My Dad Loved My Mother’
Davis told the Los Angeles Times, “I said things like, ‘Dad, I always loved you, but I didn’t like you that much. He said, ‘Well, I didn’t like you that much either.’ It turned out the air needed to be cleared.” Davis said that in her father’s final days when he could no longer speak due to his illness, the pair would often sit and hold hands inside his Beverly Hills mansion. Davis also discussed the racial discrimination her father suffered in the military, describing it as “excruciating,” and her father’s “bromance” with fellow Rat Pack member Frank Sinatra, saying that the two fell out in the 1970s when her father began using drugs.
Davis also said of her parents’ marriage, “My mom loved my dad like crazy, and my dad loved my mother. My mother was so lucky because her parents didn’t care.” The description for her second book says Davis’ father used his skills at entertaining as a means to fight the racism he suffered.
3. The Birth of Her Son, Sam, a Month Before Her Father’s Death Gave Him a ‘Final Joy’
Jet Magazine reported in August 1990, a few months after Sammy Davis Jr.’s May 16 death, that Tracey Davis “brought a final joy” to her father by giving birth to a son in April 1990. In the article, Tracey Davis is described as the entertainer’s “devoted daughter.” Sammy Davis Jr. was first diagnosed with throat cancer in 1989.
Tracey Davis told the Los Angeles Times about her son, Sam’s, first meeting with his grandfather, saying, “When I came up the stairs, he saw Sam. He was sitting up in the chair and tears — just tears.” At the time of Sammy Davis Jr.’s death, the Associated Press reported that Davis and her husband as well as their new child joined Frank Sinatra as Sammy Davis Jr.’s final visitors.
4. In October 2020, MGM Announced That Davis’ First Book on Her Father Will Be Turned Into a Movie
Deadline reported in October 2020 that Davis’ first book will be made into a movie at MGM studios. The movie will focus on her father’s later career and include “impressionistic flashbacks” while “painting the picture of his rise from child prodigy to global superstar.”
Davis told Deadline that her parents “took on the world, choosing love and compassion over hatred and bigotry, and I am a product of that decision.” She went on to describe her father as “extraordinary” and a man who “fought tough battles” in the entertainment industry. Davis added, “His was not an easy road, but, like he did in all aspects of his life, he gave it everything he had. We plan to do the same with this film.” In September 2012, Deadline reported that Davis was accused of selling the rights to her book to two different parties. That dispute became the subject of a $35 million lawsuit.
5. In 2012, Davis Defended Billy Crystal’s Use of Blackface in a Skit Involving Sammy Davis Jr.
In 2012 when comedian Billy Crystal donned blackface as part of a skit on Sammy Davis Jr. at the Academy Awards, Tracey Davis defended the act. Davis told The Hollywood Reporter, “I am 100 percent certain my father is smiling. Billy previously played my father [on Saturday Night Live] when he was alive, and my father gave Billy his full blessing.” She added, “I know the mutual love, respect and admiration that you had for each other and for his kids, Jeff, Mark and I. Thank you.”
In April 2015, Davis and one of her adopted brothers, Mark Davis, got the results of a DNA test to find out whether Mark Davis was actually Sammy Davis Jr.’s biological child with a woman who was not his wife. Inside Edition reported that Mark Davis’ “bone structure is very similar” to Sammy Davis Jr.’s, but DNA showed the two were not biologically related.