Actress and singer Della Reese, star of the television series Touched by an Angel, has died. She was 86.
Reese's husband, Franklin Lett, said in a statement that Reese died at her home in California "surrounded by love." Born in Detroit, Reese started singing in church when she was 6 years old, and at 12, gospel legend Mahalia Jackson asked her to go on tour with her. Reese had several hits, including "Don't You Know," and one year she appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show 18 times, NPR reports.
Reese also became the first black woman to fill in for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, and the first black woman to host her own syndicated variety series, Della, which ran from 1969 to 1970. In addition to being an actor and singer, Reese was an ordained minister and founder of the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church. The church grew over time, but she started out holding services in her living room for just eight members. Catherine Garcia