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What was Della Reese’s Net Worth?

Della Reese was a singer, actress, and ordained minister who had a net worth of $8 million at the time of her death in 2017. Della Reese’s career spanned seven decades. After kicking off her career as a recording artist in the 1950s with such hit songs as “And That Reminds Me” and “Don’t You Know?,” she transitioned to television and hosted her own eponymous talk show. Reese also acted in some films, including “Harlem Nights” and “Expecting Mary,” and played the main role of Tess on the popular CBS television series “Touched by an Angel.”

Bel-Air Mansion

For over 30 years Della lived in a mansion in LA’s Bel-Air neighborhood. When she first purchased the home it was just under 6,000 square feet. She expanded it to 9,000 square feet and lengthened the pool to be nearly “Olympic” sized.  In 2014 they sold the home to a developer for $7.5 million. The developer proceeded to tear the former home down and build an 11,000 square foot mansion on the site. He sold the home in 2017 to a Chinese billionaire for $19.25 million.

After selling this home Della bought a home in Encino, California for $1.79 million . After her death, this home was put on the market for $1.9 million.

Early Life and Education

Della Reese was born as Delloreese Early on July 6, 1931 in the historic Black Bottom neighborhood of Detroit, Michigan. Her parents were Nellie, a cook, and Richard, a steelworker. Although Reese’s mother had several other children before Reese was born, none of them lived with her mother. When she was six years old, Reese started singing in church, and as an adolescent she started directing the young people’s choir. Often chosen to sing on the radio, she also was hired to sing with the gospel group of Mahalia Jackson. While touring with Jackson, Reese attended Cass Technical High School, graduating in 1947 as the first in her family to earn a high school degree. She went on to attend Wayne State University. However, due in part to the death of her mother and the deteriorating health of her father, Reese dropped out of school to support her family. She took a number of odd jobs to help, including truck driver and elevator operator.

Music Career

Reese began her music career touring with Mahalia Jackson’s gospel group in the 1940s. She got her big break when she won a contest and got to perform for eight weeks at Detroit’s famous Flame Show Bar. Reese also performed with a gospel group called the Meditation Singers. In 1953, she left the group to sign with Jubilee Records, for which she recorded such songs as “In the Still of the Night,” “Time After Time,” and “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.” Reese achieved her first chart success in 1957 with her single “And That Reminds Me,” and in 1959 scored her biggest hit with the single “Don’t You Know?”

Reese continued her success with such singles as “Not One Minute More,” “And Now,” and “Someday (You’ll Want Me to Want You).” The lattermost recording was included on her Grammy-nominated 1960 album “Della.” Reese went on to release many more albums throughout the decade, notably “The Classic Della” and “Waltz with Me, Della,” which gained her international recognition. She also recorded several jazz-oriented albums, performed in Las Vegas, and toured the country. Later, in 1986, Reese formed the gospel group Brilliance with Mary Clayton, Vermettya Royster, Eric Strom, and O.C. Smith.

Della Reese

Angela Weiss/Getty Images

Television Career

In the late 1960s, Reese transitioned to television with a guest role on “The Mod Squad.” After that, she landed her own talk show, “Della,” which aired from 1969 to 1970. In the latter year, Reese became the first black woman to serve as a guest host on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” She went on to land guest roles on various shows throughout the 1970s, including “Police Woman,” “McCloud,” “Petrocelli,” “Sanford and Son,” and “Welcome Back, Kotter.” Reese also had a recurring role on the NBC sitcom “Chico and the Man,” and appeared in such television films as “Voyage of the Yes,” “Twice in a Lifetime,” and “Cop on the Beat.” She continued making guest appearances on many shows in the 1980s, including “The Love Boat,” “The A-Team,” “227,” and “Night Court.” Additionally, Reese had recurring roles on the short-lived sitcoms “It Takes Two” and “Charlie & Co.”

Kicking off the 1990s, Reese appeared in episodes of “The Young Riders” and “MacGyver” and in the television film “The Kid Who Loved Christmas.” From 1991 to 1992, she starred opposite Redd Foxx on the short-lived CBS sitcom “The Royal Family.” Reese followed that with appearances on “Designing Women,” “L.A. Law,” and “Picket Fences.” Then, in 1994, she began the longest-running role of her career, on the CBS series “Touched by an Angel.” Playing Tess, the supervisor of an angel, Monica, played by Roma Downey, Reese earned numerous accolades, including multiple NAACP Image Awards and SAG, Emmy, and Golden Globe Award nominations. “Touched by an Angel” was a major hit, running for nine seasons through 2003. Meanwhile, Reese appeared as Tess on the spinoff series “Promised Land.” Among her final credits were episodes of “That’s So Raven,” “The Young and the Restless,” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”

(Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Film Career

Reese made her debut on the big screen in the 1975 horror film “Psychic Killer.” She didn’t return to cinema until 1989, when she played nightclub madam Vera Walker in Eddie Murphy’s “Harlem Nights.” Following another substantial break, Reese played the mother of Martin Lawrence’s main character in the 1996 film “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate.” Four years after that, she voiced the character Eema in Disney’s “Dinosaur.” Reese’s subsequent credits were “Beauty Shop” (2005) and “If I Had Known I Was a Genius” (2007). In 2010, she played trailer park owner Doris Dorkus in “Expecting Mary.”

Ministry

After founding and serving as the senior minister of her church Understanding Principles for Better Living, Reese was ordained a minister through the Christian New Thought branch Unity in the 1980s.

Personal Life and Death

Reese married her first husband, factory worker Vermont Taliaferro, in 1952; he was 19 years her senior. The couple divorced in 1958. The following year, Reese wed accountant Leroy Gray, from whom she separated in 1961. She subsequently married her manager, musician and composer Mercer Ellington; however, their marriage was annulled within the year due to Ellington’s divorce from his previous wife being ruled invalid. Reese wed her fourth and final husband, Franklin Lett Jr., in 1983. She had four children in total from her marriages.

In 2016, Reese was reportedly in ill health, and had undergone multiple surgeries. She stated that she had neglected her health for many years, leading to a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. On November 19, 2017, Reese passed away at her home in Los Angeles, California at the age of 86.

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