Legendary entertainer Pearl Bailey was born on March 29, 1918 and raised in Newport News, Va. Over the course of her long career, Bailey won both an Emmy and Tony Award.
Bailey started out as a singer at 15 on the amateur level, when she won a pair of notable competitions including wowing the Apollo Theater audience. Her career took off in the ‘30s in Philadelphia, and in 1941, she toured nationally with the USO during World War II before embarking on a stage and film career. Bailey made her Broadway debut in 1946 in St. Louis Woman alongside Mahalia Jackson, Eartha Kitt, and Nat King Cole.
In 1954, Bailey made her film debut in Carmen Jones and continued to perform regularly on stage and in other mediums. She won the Tony in 1968 for starring in the all-Black production of Hello, Dolly, and a Daytime Emmy for her role in Cindy Eller: A Modern Fairy Tale.
Bailey was a lifelong Republican and was installed as an “Ambassador of Love” by President Richard Nixon in 1970. She also helped shoot a commercial for President Gerald Ford in 1976. Her discography includes well over two dozen recordings and in 1988, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contributions to the arts.
Bailey passed in 1990 at the age of 72.
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