October 22, 2019

Sally Ogle Davis, activists in Jewish arts and synagogue life, dies at 71

Sally Ogle Davis, a teenage television personality in Northern Ireland, chronicler of the famous and powerful in Hollywood, and activist in Jewish arts and synagogue life, died Dec. 11 in Seattle. She was 71.

Her death, after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer, ended a 45-year partnership in creative writing and investigative journalism with her husband, Ivor Davis.

After marrying and immigrating to the United States in 1967, both worked for 20 years as editors at Los Angeles Magazine, reported for British newspapers and TV and wrote columns for the Jewish Journal.

Ogle Davis, born in London into a showbiz family and raised in Belfast, broke into television at 18. An obit in the Irish Times led off with the following paragraph:

“When television was black and white, Sally Ogle brought glamour to nightly news programs during the 1960s, when she became presenter [host] on UTV [Ulster Television] and BBC Northern Ireland, where her stunning looks and razor-sharp intellect marked her out for greater things.”

Simultaneously, she was active in Belfast’s sole synagogue.

In Los Angeles, she found her main niche in reporting on the glamorous and political sides of her adopted city, specializing in incisive interviews with newsmakers, ranging from Paul Newman to Ronald Reagan.

Her various assignments included West Coast correspondent for the BBC, documentary producer for CBS-TV and contributor to the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

Ivor Davis described the couple’s professional relationship, telling the Ventura County Star, “I spent my life as a foreign correspondent, and I was a meat-and-potatoes writer. Sally was a crème-de-la-crème writer. We discovered we could work together on stories. I did the digging and Sally did the finishing touches.”

Ogle Davis continued her involvement in Jewish religious and arts life and helped establish a Reconstructionist congregation in Malibu. After moving to Ventura in the 1980s, she served on the board and pulpit committee of Temple Beth Torah, was a founding member of the Ventura County Jewish Film Festival and was actively involved in the Ventura Music Festival and in Planned Parenthood.

Rabbi Lisa Hochberg-Miller of Beth Torah recalled, “Sally was unquestionably one of the brightest women that most of us have ever met. … She had an incredible interest in just about everything.”

Ogle Davis is survived by her husband, Ivor Davis; daughter, Rebecca Davis-Suskind (David); son, Gideon (Tricia) Davis; four grandchildren; and a sister.

The family suggests that those wishing to honor her memory consider donations to the Virginia Mason Pancreaticobiliary Cancer Fund, attention Dr. Vincent Picozzi, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Mailstop Buck 2, 110 Ninth Ave., Seattle, Wash., 98110.