It is with great sadness that we say farewell to a legendary Black woman in media, Della Reese.
The actress and singer, whose career spans over four decades, Sunday night, at her California home.
It was her ‘Touched by an Angel’ co-star Roma Downey who shared the news with the public on behalf of Reese’s family.
Taking to her official Instagram profile, Downey writes,
“Heaven has a brand new angel Della today 🕊🕊🕊On behalf of her husband, Franklin Lett, and all her friends and family, I share with you the news that our beloved Della Reese has passed away peacefully at her California home surrounded by love. She was an incredible Wife, Mother, Grandmother, friend, and Pastor, as well as an award-winning actress and singer. 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. Rest In Peace, sweet angel. We love you.”
Reese’s music career began at just 13 years after being discovered by Gospel legend Mahalia Jackson in 1944.
She would go on to tour with Jackson and later found her own gospel group before going solo in 1953.
By 1969, Reese ventured off into acting and her own talk show, even becoming the first Black woman to host The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1970.
After appearing in a number of television shows and miniseries, her most provocative role came in 1989, playing the feisty Vera in Harlem Nights, alongside comedians Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx.
In her later years, Reese would become best known for her reoccurring role as Tess on CBS’s ‘Touched by an Angel,” from 1994 until 2003.
Upon learning of the sad news, it didn’t take long before fellow celebrities took to social media to share their condolences and fondest memories of the icon.
Actress Jackee Harry tweeted, “I am completely devastated by the loss of Della Reese. She was a great co-star, sparring partner, drinking buddy, and friend. She taught me the power of prayer and the importance of humility. I’ll be forever grateful to call her my friend.”
Tyler Perry also shared his thoughts adding, “Della Reese, you’ve left us all Touched By An Angel!!! Thank you for your life, thank you for your faith, and thank you for traveling this way!!”
Samuel L. Jackson: “IRREPLACEABLE! RIP DELLA REESE!”
Joy Reid: “Think about it for a minute: a black woman, Della Reese, breaking television barriers in 1956 — just two years after Brown v. Board, a year before the Little Rock nine and SEVEN YEARS before the March on Washington.”
She leaves behind sons James and Franklin and daughter Dominique, as well as husband Franklin Lett. She was predeceased by adopted daughter Deloreese.
You will be missed Della Reese, may you rest in peace.