Star of Screen, Television, and Recording Artist Della Reese Dead At 86
She was born Delloreese Patricia Early on July 6, 1931, in Detroit, Michigan. She began singing in church when she was 6-years old. By her teens, she was working as a singer in gospel luminary Mahalia Jackson’s unit.
After graduating from Detroit’s Cass Technical High School, she briefly attended Wayne State University, but soon moved into music professionally, taking Della Reese as her professional name.
Della Reese was the first Black woman to host her own talk show, which was launched in 1969 and called “Della”.
Della Reese got her first acting break from casting director Reuben Cannon, who offered her a guest shot on the cop show “The Mod Squad” in 1968. She also appeared in roles on “Police Woman,” “The Rookies,” “McCloud” Chico and the Man,” Welcome Back Kotter,” and “The A-Team.”
It was Della’s role in “Touched by an Angel” that cemented her TV stardom and exposed her to a new generation. . Della portrayed Tess, a Cadillac-driving supervising angel ministering to the spiritual needs of earthbound “search and rescue cases.” Reese also performed the show’s theme song, “Walk With You.”
Della survived serious health crises. In 1979, she suffered a brain aneurysm during a taping of “The Tonight Show,” and weathered two brain surgeries. She collapsed on the set of “Touched by an Angel” in 2002, and later announced she suffered from type 2 diabetes.
In 2014, Della announced her retirement and founded she returned to her religious roots as the founding pastor of her own Los Angeles-based church, Understanding Principles for Better Living (or “Up”), her Los Angeles base church in which she was pastor.
Della Reese is survived by her husband Franklin Lett, a film producer and concert promoter.
I enjoyed Della’s role in the movie Harlem Nights. So many of the actors in that movie proceeded Della in transition; Red Foxx; Richard Pryor; Charlie Murphy; and Robin Harris.
Rest In Peace, Della.