'Touched by an Angel' star Della Reese dead at 86

'Touched by an Angel' star Della Reese dead at 86
Posted at 1:23 PM, Nov 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-20 13:23:00-05

(RNN) - Singer Della Reese passed away peacefully at the age of 86 on Monday, according to People.

Touched by an Angel star Della Reese was born on July 6, 1931 in Detroit.

She began singing at 6 years old in her family's church and was discovered by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. At 13, she was hired to sing with Jackson's gospel group.

Later, Reese formed her own gospel group, the Meditation Singers, who were allegedly the first to perform gospel music in night clubs in Las Vegas and were listed in the "Who's Who of Gospel Music."

Reese began making records and started her TV career in the 1950s. In 1953, she signed with Jubilee Records and joined the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra.

Some of her first recording with Jubilee were "I've Got my Love to Keep Me Warm" and "In the Still of the Night."

She was later nominated for Best Female Soloist in Gospel Music Grammy music award.

Outside of her singing career, she was a regular guest on The Ed Sullivan Show. She hosted a TV talk show from 1969 to 1970 and starred in TV shows including Stanford and Son and Picket Fences in the 1980s.

In 1970 Reese became a guest host for the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson - where she was the first black woman to serve as guest host.

In 2002, she was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and became a national spokesperson for an educational campaign called "Della Reese: Stronger than Diabetes."

Reese was ordained as a minister by the Universal Foundation for Better Living in 1987. She later founded the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church in Los Angeles.

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