Della Reese, accomplished jazz, R&B, Gospel singer, and actress was mourned all across social media when the news that she passed away broke. Perhaps best known for her role as Tess, a heavenly messenger on CBS’ Touched by an Angel television series or as Vera, a 1920’s era Madam, in the 1989 film Harlem Nights. Della Reese got her start in music, singing backup for none other than Mahalia Jackson in 1944, when Reese was only 13.

In fact, Della Reese was ordained as a minister in the 1980’s by the Universal Foundation for Better Living and even founded her own church, Understanding Principles for Better Living where she delivered sermons for years, including while working on Touched by an Angel. Even though she is best known for her roles in film and TV, Reese did not stop working on her music, eventually receiving a Grammy nomination in 1998 for her Gospel album “My Soul Feels Better Right Now.”

Della Reese also holds the distinction of being the first Black woman to host a nationally televised variety talk show. Even though Della lasted only one season from 1969-1970, that amounted to close to 200 episodes with appearances from Little Richard, Ike and Tina Turner, and Tony Bennett.

Della Reese holds a special place in the hearts of Black folk everywhere and received countless tributes, including this one, where Orlando Jones credits her with inspiring his own comedic style:

Today, we truly lost an angel.

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