Cicely Tyson Dies; Emmy-Winning Actress Was 96

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Veteran actress Cicely Tyson, whose career spanned almost seven decades, died Thursday.

She was 96.

“I have managed Miss Tyson’s career for over 40 years, and each year was a privilege and blessing,” Tyson’s manager, Larry Thompson, said in a statement to Variety.

Cicely Tyson Attends Academy Awards

“Cicely thought of her new memoir as a Christmas tree decorated with all the ornaments of her personal and professional life. Today she placed the last ornament, a Star, on top of the tree.”

A cause of death has not been revealed.

On TV screens, Tyson made history in 1963 with her role as secretary Jane Foster in on East Side/West Side, making her the first Black actress to co-star in a TV drama.

Tyson, Cicely

The actress went on to guest-star or recur in many series over the years, Guiding Light, The Outer Limits, Touched by an Angel, House of Cards, How to Get Away With Murder, and Madam Secretary.

Additionally, she starred as civil rights lawyer Carrie Grace Battle in the short-lived NBC drama Sweet Justice in 1994.

Her role as Annalise Keating's mother wrapped in 2020 with How to Get Away with Murder's final season, but it earned her four Primetime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series.

However, Tyson's final TV role was in the OWN original series, Cherish the Day, in which she played the series regular role of Miss Luma Lee Langston.

Cicely Tyson Attends Cherish the Day Event

Tyson was also a movie actress, most notably as Rebecca Morgan in the 1972 drama Sounder. Her performance earned her Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.

Her other big-screen credits also include Because of Winn-Dixie, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea’s Family Reunion, and The Help.

The beloved actress was also a regular on the stage front, with roles in several stage productions. She won a Tony Award in 2013 for the Broadway play The Trip to Bountiful.

The world was in mourning following the news, with Tyson's former scene partner on How to Get Away with Murder leading the tributes.

Cicely Tyson Attends AFI Event

Viola Davis

I'm devastated. My heart is just broken. I loved you so much!! You were everything to me! You made me feel loved and seen and valued in a world where there is still a cloak of invisibility for us dark chocolate girls.

You gave me permission to dream....because it was only in my dreams that I could see the possibilities in myself.

I'm not ready for you to be my angel yet. But...I also understand that it's only when the last person who has a memory of you dies, that you'll truly be dead. In that case, you will be immortal.

Thank you for shifting my life. Thank you for the long talks. Thank you for loving me.

Cicely Tyson and Viola Davis

Debbie Allen

#CicelyTyson, you will always be the Life of our Party; celebrating the Beauty of Blackness and the Grace of Greatness. We will forever speak your name.


This one hurts, today we honor and celebrate the life of one of the greatest to ever do it. Thank you Cicely Tyson. Rest in great power.

Cicely Tyson Attends 25th Hall of Fame Ceremony

LeVar Burton

This one cuts deep. @IAmCicelyTyson was my first screen Mom.. Elegance, warmth, beauty, wisdom, style and abundant grace. She was as regal as they come. An artist of the highest order, I will love her forever.

Shonda Rhimes

She was an extraordinary person. And this is an extraordinary loss. She had so much to teach. And I still have so much to learn. I am grateful for every moment. Her power and grace will be with us forever.

George Takei

Cicely Tyson has passed. She led a pioneering career in film, a remarkable feat for an African American woman born 96 years ago.

Cicely Tyson at Common's 5th Annual Toast

An Emmy and Tony award winning actress, her career on screen and on stage stretched an incredible seven decades. We will miss you dearly, Cicely. RIP.

Tyler James Williams

Queen Mother Cicely Tyson, I pray for you as glorious and regal a transition as your presence was here with us.

Thank you for all of your contributions to the movement & the culture and for allowing so many of us to stand on your incredibly strong shoulders. Rest In Power.

Gabrielle Union

We have lost a visionary, a leader, a lover, an author, an ICON, and one of the most talented actresses the world has ever seen. A life, a career, a fire to celebrated forevermore! #RIPCicelyTyson

Cicely Tyson Arrives at 38th Annual Kennedy Center Honors

Laverne Cox

To have gotten to be in the same room as you multiple times, is truly to have been in the presence of GREATNESS!!.

There are no words, just all the feelings you've evoked in us all and the indescribable blueprint, legacy you leave for us all. Thank you REST IN POWER!"

Cynthia Nixon

America has had a lot of great actresses, but none greater than Cicely Tyson. Rest in Power.

Taraji P. Henson

WOW...what a life!! Rest In Peace Cicely Tyson, you paved the way for SO many of us and I can't express my gratitude enough! A true icon, legend, and showstopper—you will be truly missed.


May she rest in peace.

Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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