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Hollywood lost another legend. Musician and actress Della Reese peacefully passed away in her home Sunday evening. She was 86.
“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 last evening 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,” her costar Roma Downey confirmed to PEOPLE in an exclusive statement.
Della Reese began her singing career when she was tapped, at 13 years old, to perform with Mahalia Jackson’s gospel group. She eventually went on to release six jazz albums and produce a top 20 hit. Reese played the beloved Tess on Touched By An Angel and appeared on other influential shows like The Mod Squad, The Love Boat, Sanford and Son, MacGyver, Night Court, and The Young and the Restless. She was the first Black woman to co-host The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
Source: John Springer Collection / Getty
Della famous scene in Harlem Nights remains a classic Black moment in film.
Della is survived by her three children and husband Franklin Lett.