Della Reese, who segued from pop and jazz singing stardom in the ‘50s and ‘60s to a long career as a popular TV actress on “Touched by an Angel” and other shows, died Sunday night at her home in California. She was 86.
Actress Roma Downey, Reese’s co-star on Touched By an Angel, said in a statement to Variety, “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.”
In addition to memorable roles in television and films such as A Thin Line Between Love and Hate and Harlem Nights, Reese enjoyed an early career as a big-voiced jazz singer, accumulating four Grammy nominations before transitioning into television with the 1969 show Della, the first talk show hosted by an African-American woman.