Award winning entertainer and pioneer Diahann Carroll died October 4 in Los Angeles as a result of cancer at the age of 84. She survived a battle with breast cancer in 1998.
Carroll spent the early years of her career breaking barriers and crossing the colour line. She was the first woman of colour to not only star in a non-servant role on television, she did so as the main character in her own series – that of a young widowed nurse Julia Baker in the series “Julia”. She was also the first woman of colour to win a Tony Award for the Best Actress in a Musical and in the theatre, she would often take on roles that were previously considered” white roles”.
But her career did not begin on the stage or screen, rather she started out on the runway as a model, often getting work for magazines that catered to the African-American community.
It was an appearance on “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” and a prize from the show that got her started on the nightclub circuit. It was here that a teenaged Carol took her stage name.
Carroll made her Broadway debut in 1955 in the original musical production of “House of Flowers”. She also appeared in “No Strings” – for which she won a Tony Award – and “Agnes of God”.
She made her acting debut in 1954 in “Winner by Decision”. From there she went on to appear in dozens of productions including “Peter Gunn”, “Naked City”, 86 episodes of her sitcom “Julia”, “The Love Boat”, “Roots: The Next Generation”, “The Colbys”, 74 episodes of “Dynasty”, “A Different World”, “Evening Shade”, “Lonesome Dove: The Series”, “Touched by an Angel”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, and “White Collar”.
Singing since she was six years old in the church, Carroll appeared in 40 productions lending her voice to the programs. Her first singing appearance came in 1954 on “Clem the Rookie”; other appearances include “The Red Skelton Hour”, “Francis Albert Sinatra Does His Thing”, “The Hollywood Palace”, “Flip”, “The Sonny and Cher Show”, “The Love Boat”, “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”, “The Best of Broadway”, “White Collar”, and her own shows and specials.
As herself, Diahann Carroll made over 200 appearances in award shows, talk shows variety shows, and documentaries.
She was born Carol Diahann Johnson on July 17, 1935 in New York City but when she was very young, her parents left her with an aunt in North Carolina for a year.
Married four times (widowed once and divorced three times), she is survived by daughter Suzanne and grandchildren August and Sydney.
feature photo credit: By CBS Television – eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21934824