Della Reese, who rose to fame as a jazz singer and later found television stardom on the drama “Touched by an Angel,” has died.
She was 86.
“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,” Reese’s family said in a statement. “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.”
Before landing the role as Tess on “Touched by an Angel,” Reese was an accomplished singer who rose to national fame in 1957 with her song, “And That Reminds Me.” She had several other hits, including “Not One Minute More,” “And Now,” “Don’t You Know?” and “The Most Beautiful Words.”
When she made the move to television, Reese saw success in parts on series including “The Love Boat,” “MacGyver” and “The Young and the Restless.” She also had her own television variety hour called “Della” and was the first black woman to co-host “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” She went on to play Tess in “Touched by an Angel’s” 1994 debut and continued through the end of the series in 2003.