Cicely Tyson dies at 96: Tyler Perry, Oprah, Viola Davis and more mourn 'greatest to ever do it'

Written by on January 28, 2021

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Cicely Tyson made historical past as the primary African-American girl to win a greatest lead actress Emmy for her function as Jane Pittman. USA TODAY

The loss of life of famend actress Cicely Tyson Thursday drew an outpouring of grief and an array of tributes from Hollywood and much past.

The actress and cherished icon, who was first Oscar-nominated for 1972’s “Sounder” and 45 years later was honored with an honorary golden statuette for her physique of labor, died Thursday at age 96, her supervisor Larry Thompson confirmed to USA TODAY.

“With heavy coronary heart, the household of Miss Cicely Tyson proclaims her peaceable transition this afternoon. Right now, please permit the household their privateness,” Thompson stated in a press release.

Tyler Perry stated the information of Tyson’s loss of life “introduced me to my knees.” He defined that he obtained the information from Oprah Winfrey whereas coincidentally watching Tyson’s 1974 tv movie “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” on a whim.   

“I used to be sitting on the desk working once I obtained this overwhelming feeling to look at ‘Miss Jane Pittman.’ I hadn’t seen the film in years. I didn’t even perceive the sensation to show it on, however I did anyway,” he wrote in a touching Instagram tribute. “Not 12 minutes into the film my cellphone rang. It was Oprah calling to inform me that Cicely had died.”

Obituary: Legendary actress Cicely Tyson, who trailblazed in TV and film for more than seven decades, dies at 96

Perry opened up about his shut relationship with Tyson, saying she was the “grandmother I by no means had.” 

“To suppose that she lived for 96 years and I obtained to be part of the final 16 brings me nice pleasure,” he wrote. “She known as me son. Effectively, immediately your son grieves your loss and can miss our lengthy talks, your laughter out of your stomach, and your very presence. All the time so regal, at all times so elegant, at all times a woman, at all times a queen.”

Winfrey shared an image with Tyson from 2005’s Legends Ball, a celebration of “outstanding Black girls,” together with Tyson, Maya Angelou, Aretha Franklin, Toni Morrison and Rosa Parks, “who carved a path and constructed a bridge for me and generations to comply with.”

“Cicely determined early on that her work as an actor can be greater than a job,” Winfrey wrote on Instagram. “She used her profession to light up the humanity of Black individuals. The roles she performed mirrored her values; she by no means compromised. Her life so absolutely lived is a sworn statement to Greatness.”

The passing of Tyson, who performed the mom of Viola Davis’ character on the Shonda Rhimes-produced “Find out how to Get Away with Homicide,” additionally “devastated” the Oscar-winning actress, who shared a touching photograph of the pair on Instagram.

“My coronary heart is simply damaged. I beloved you a lot!! You had been all the pieces to me! You made me really feel beloved and seen and valued in a world the place there’s nonetheless a cloak of invisibility for us darkish chocolate ladies. You gave me permission to dream….as a result of it was solely in my goals that I might see the probabilities in myself,” Davis wrote. “I am not prepared so that you can be my angel but. However…I additionally perceive that it is solely when the final one that has a reminiscence of you dies, that you will really be useless. In that case, you’ll be immortal.” 

Rhimes referred to Tyson’s loss of life as an “extraordinary loss” of “a rare particular person.”

“She had a lot to show. And I nonetheless have a lot to study,” Rhimes captioned an Instagram picture of herself smiling alongside Tyson. “I’m grateful for each second. Her energy and beauty can be with us ceaselessly.”

Ava DuVernay, who directed Tyson within the 2020 TV collection “Cherish the Day,” supplied poetry in her Instagram tribute, which was accompanied by an image of her hugging Tyson.

“Your hugs I’ll bear in mind. How your petite arms wrapped round me like mighty branches of a sunlit tree, robust and heat. Your giggle I’ll bear in mind. The way it got here simply and heartily and gave the impression of good music. Your work I’ll bear in mind. How your courageous portrayals reworked the best way the world witnessed Black girls, whether or not they might settle for what you shared or not. Your phrases I’ll bear in mind. How every time I hung up the cellphone, I’d write them down in order not overlook the dear jewels of encouragement and knowledge you’d gifted me. Your love I’ll bear in mind. You liked me for some cause. You informed me so usually. I thanks for that ceaselessly and I’ll carry your love with me as I am going,” she wrote.

Rihanna remembered Tyson as a “true legend.” Zendaya agreed: “This one hurts. Right this moment we honor and have a good time the lifetime of {one of the} best to ever do it. Thanks Cicely Tyson. Relaxation in nice energy.”

Gabourey Sidibe tweeted, “There’s in all probability no higher a strategy to honor Cicely Tyson, than by studying her story,” referring to Tyson’s newly-released memoir “Just as I Am.” 

Cicely Tyson’s loss of life comes days after her memoir was released. These are the book’s most poignant moments

Multi-talented Debbie Allen stated Tyson “will at all times be the Lifetime of our Occasion.” She added that she’ll proceed “celebrating the Fantastic thing about Blackness and the Grace of Greatness. We are going to ceaselessly communicate your identify.

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, who obtained a tweet of recognition from Tyson simply at some point earlier than her loss of life, tweeted:  “Thanks in your life, your love, your mild.”

On Wednesday, Tyson had thanked Gorman on Twitter for her therapeutic phrases on the presidential inauguration per week earlier: “@TheAmandaGorman, your phrases remind us that we’ll rise, rebuild, reconcile and get better. Thanks in your phrases and light-weight.”

Gorman said Tyson’s message made her emotional Thursday: “This legend’s second to final (tweet) was about me. I can’t cease crying. Thanks, thanks, thanks Cicely. You’ve given us black ladies all the pieces.”

“Intercourse and the Metropolis” star Cynthia Nixon tweeted, “America has had plenty of nice actresses, however none higher than Cicely Tyson. Relaxation in Energy.”

George Takei tweeted a tribute to a fellow appearing trailblazer: “She led a pioneering profession in movie, a outstanding feat for an African American girl born 96 years in the past.  An Emmy and Tony award profitable actress, her profession on display screen and on stage stretched an unimaginable seven a long time. We are going to miss you dearly, Cicely. RIP.”

Gayle King tweeted reward, alongside together with her nine-minute “CBS This Morning” interview with Tyson timed to the release of her new memoir: “Thanks Cicely Tyson… for all the pieces…”

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Martin Luther King III and Bernice King, the kids of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., additionally paid their respects.

“The world misplaced a trailblazer immediately,” Martin Luther King III tweeted. “#CicelyTyson paved the best way for therefore many artists after her and fantastically portrayed iconic roles comparable to Harriett Tubman and my mom, Coretta Scott King. Relaxation in peace, Cicely. You can be missed.”

U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) included an image of Tyson and herself with a gaggle of outstanding Black girls in her tweet: “So saddened to listen to my pal #CicelyTyson has passed-one of probably the most profound, proficient, & celebrated actors within the trade. She was a critical actor, stunning & non secular girl who had unlocked the important thing to longevity in the best way she lived her life. Eternally all my love & respect.”

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