Della Reese
Della Reese
Della Reese, a longtime friend of Redd Foxx, appeared as herself in the fifth season episode "Della, Della, Della" (#5.7).
Vital Information
Gender: Female
Birthname: Delloresse Patricia
Born: (1931-07-06)July 6, 1931
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Died November 19, 2017(2017-11-19) (aged 86)
Deathplace: California, U.S.
Actress, Singer, Entertainer
Years active: 1952–2014
Known for:
role CBS-TV's The Royal Family with Redd Foxx and Touched By An Angel
Family/Personal information
Character/series involvement
Appeared on/
Involved with:
Sanford and Son
Episodes appeared in: "Della, Della, Della" in Season 5
Character(s) played: Herself
Sanford and Son retro Wiki Script

Della Reese (July 6, 1931 – November 19, 2017) appeared as herself in the Sanford and Son episode titled Della, Della, Della, (Season 5. episode #7).

Early yearsEdit

Reese was born Delloreese Patricia Early in the historic Black Bottom neighborhood of Detroit, Michigan to Nellie Mitchelle, a Native American Cherokee cook, and African American steelworker Richard Thaddeus Early[1][2] Delloreese's mother also had several older children, before her birth, all of whom did not live with her, hence, she lived as an only child.[3] At six years old, Reese began singing in church. From this experience, she became an avid gospel musi singer.

On weekends in the 1940s, she and her mother would go to the movies independently to watch the likes of Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Lena Horne portray glamorous lives on screen. Afterwards, Reese would act out the scenes from the films. In 1944, she began her career directing the young people's choir, after she had nurtured acting plus her obvious musical talent. She was often chosen, on radio, as a regular singer.[4] At the age of thirteen, she was hired to sing with Mahalia Jackson's gospel group. Delloreese entered Detroit's popular Cass Technical High School (where she attended the same year as Edna Rae Gillooly, later known as Ellen Burstyn). She also continued with her touring with Jackson. With higher grades, she was the first in her family to graduate from high school in 1947, at only 15.

Afterwards, she formed her own gospel group, the Meditation Singers. However, due in part to the death of her mother, and her father's serious illness, Reese had to interrupt her schooling at Wayne State University to help support her family. Faithful to the memory of her mother, Deloreese also moved out of her father's house when she disapproved of him taking up with a new girlfriend. She then took on odd jobs, such as truck driver, dental receptionist, and even elevator operator, after 1949.

Performing in clubs, Early soon decided to shorten her name from "Delloreese Early" to "Della Reese".

Television guest appearances Edit

Reese has had a wide variety of guest-starring roles, beginning with an episode of the ABC-TV series The Mod Squad. This led to other roles such as: The Bold Ones: The New Doctors, Getting Together, NBC's Police Woman, McCloud,Petrocelli, Joe Forrester, and Police Story, ABC-TV's The Rookies, Sanford and Son with longtime friend Redd Foxx, Vega$, Insight, two episodes of The Love Boat. She also had a recurring role on It Takes Two opposite Richard Crenna and Patty Duke, three episodes of Crazy Like a Fox, four episodes of Charlie & Co. opposite Flip Wilson, 227 with best friend Marla Gibbs, MacGyver, Night Court, Dream On, Designing Women, Picket Fences, That's So Raven and The Young and the Restless. She also had a recurring role as Tess, on CBS's Promised Land with Wendy Phillips and Gerald McRaney, among many others.

Touched by an Angel Edit

After coping with the death of one of her best friends, Redd Foxx, in 1991, she was reluctant to play an older female lead in the inspirational television drama Touched by an Angel, but went ahead and auditioned for the role of "Tess". She wanted to have a one-shot agreement between CBS and producer Martha Williamson, but ordered more episodes. Reese was widely seen as a key component of the show's success.

Already starring on Touched by an Angel was the lesser-known Irish actress Roma Downey, who played the role of case worker Tess's angel/employee, Monica. In numerous interviews, there was an on- and off-screen chemistry between both Reese and Downey.

The character of Tess was the angelic supervisor who sent the other angels out on missions to help people redeem their lives and show them God's love, while at the same time, she was sassy and had a no-nonsense attitude. The show often featured a climactic monologue delivered by the angel Monica in which she reveals herself as an angel to a human with the words, "I am an angel sent by God to tell you that he loves you." The character of Tess was portrayed by Reese as down to earth, experienced, and direct.

Reese also sang the show's theme song, "Walk With You" and was featured prominently on the soundtrack album produced in conjunction with the show.


On November 19, 2017, Reese died at her home in California from type 2 diabetes at the age of 86.


  1. Reese Reese.html Della Reese biography at
  2. Della Reese: Earning Her Wings, by Hilary de Vries for The New York Times, June 14, 1998, accessed 2009-12-27.
  3. [Della Reese Biography at]
  4. [Della Reese Biography at]

External linksEdit