Multi-talented star Della Reese has passed away at her California home Sunday night at 86.
Reese first started her career as an R&B and jazz singer in the 1950s and 60s. The Detroit native began singing in her church when she was 6 years old.
By 1969, she became a TV star with her talk show, Della, becoming the first African-American woman to host a syndicated talk show that lasted 197 episodes. She later became the first black woman to guest host The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1970.
Reese then appeared in films like Harlem Nights and A Thin Line Between Love and Hate, as well as TV guest roles on The A-Team and A Pup Named Scooby-Doo.
In 1994, Reese found massive success in the acclaimed CBS series Touched by an Angel, which lasted for 9 seasons, with Irish actress Roma Downey.
“She was an incredible wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and pastor, as well as an award-winning actress and singer," Downey said in a statement to Variety. "Through her life and work she touched and inspired the lives of millions of people. She was a mother to me and I had the privilege of working with her side-by-side for so many years on Touched by an Angel. I know heaven has a brand new angel this day. Della Reese will be forever in our hearts.”
During her tenure on the show, Reese won seven consecutive NAACP Image Awards as Best Lead Actress in a Drama, collected two Emmy nominations and a 1998 Golden Globe nod.
Following her passing, CBS, which ran the show, released a statement as well.
“For nine years, we were privileged to have Della as part of the CBS family when she delivered encouragement and optimism to millions of viewers as Tess on Touched by an Angel,” CBS said. “We will forever cherish her warm embraces and generosity of spirit. She will be greatly missed. Another angel has gotten her wings.”
In recent years, her health was in decline as she battled diabetes. She's survived by her husband and three children.