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Della Reese Dies at 86; Questlove, Al Sharpton and More Salute the Legendary Star

10/18/97 West Hollywood, CA. Della Reese signs her new book, "Angels Along The Way" at Booksoup.
Albert Ortega, Getty Images

Legendary actress-singer Della Reese, who performed on stage, screen and in the studio for more than 50 years, has passed away at age 86. The Detroit native died peacefully on Sunday evening (Nov. 19) in California according to a press release issued by the family and her representative. No cause of death were immediately provided but Reese did ived with diabetes throughout her life.

Della was a veteran of film, television and the stage. She received her first break as a singer in the late 1950s with her No. 2 pop hit “Don’t You Know.” She would later garner more success on television and on the big screen. She was hosted her own talk show, Della, in the late 1960s; and in 1970, she became the first Black woman to guest host The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Cochran. Reese was a frequent actress in popular sitcoms; she appeared on Chico and the Man, Sanford & Son and would later co-star with Redd Foxx on the short-lived sitcom, The Royal Family. She also played Mr. T’s mom on the A-Team and appeared as Martin Lawrence’s mother in 1996s A Thin Line Between Love and Hate. But Reese will most likely be remembered by younger fans for her starring role in Touched by an Angel from 1994 to 2003; as well as her memorable performance as Madam Vera in Eddie Murphy’s 1989 comedy Harlem Nights.

Upon hearing the news of Della Reese’s passing, celebrities like Questlove, Orlando Jones and others have expressed their condolences on social media. Roma Downey, Reese’s co-star on Touched by Angel, shared the sad news on her Instagram account. The actress shared a photo of Reese and recalled their special bond while working on the series.

Della Reese leaves behind children Deloreese, James, Franklin, and Dominique, as well as husband Franklin Lett. We want to send our heartfelt condolences to friends and family of Della Reese. She will be sorely missed.

Check out celebrities reaction below.

The Supreme #DellaReese thank you!

A post shared by Questlove Gomez (@questlove) on

Listen to Della Reese’s “Don’t You Know”

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