“You walk to the edge of a cliff and you just know you’re gonna fly” – Judy Pace
Judy Lenteen Pace is an African American actress who was the first villainess on television in 1964. Pace starred as the tough Vickie Fletcher, a high-powered lawyer on the hit show “Peyton Place.” “Peyton Place” is the only prime-time scripted series ever to run episodes continuously for years without reruns or hiatuses. The “Peyton Place” series was also the first time a black family was represented in a dramatic series on television.
Pace starred in the series opposite actor Glynn Turman. The two had also been the first black teenagers on television. The white audience was intimidated by Pace’s character at first, who was a black woman in a fur coat, so they simply changed her character’s coat to a different material.
Pace was born in 1942 in Los Angeles, CA. She was raised in her parent’s retail store, Kitty’s Boutique, which was said to be the largest black-owned ladies apparel shop west of the Mississippi.
In the 1960’s, actors in the entertainment industry had to be signed with a major motion picture studio to be considered for work. Pace was the first black woman to receive a contract to a major motion picture studio; she was signed to Screen Gems/Columbia pictures, then was later the first black to get a contract with 20th Century Fox. She recalls being the only black person on the studio lot besides Joseph, the gentleman hired to shine shoes.
During that time period, African American actors weren’t typically seen in productions if they were darker skinned. Pace (also known as Judy Pace Mitchell) was the first black actress of a dark skin color to reach a high level of prestige in entertainment.
Pace had minor roles in landmark television productions prior to “Peyton Place” such as “Bewitched” (1966), “Batman” (1966), “I Spy” (1966), “I Dream of Jeannie” (1967), “The Flying Nun” (1967), “The Mod Squad” (1968) and several other early programs.
In 1972, Pace starred as Linda, the wife of Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) in the Emmy award-winning classic “Brian’s Song”. The film is the first to be cited in the U.S. Congressional Record.