Tyler Perry, Clintons attend memorial for actor Cicely Tyson

MARK KENNEDY
·1-min read

NEW YORK (AP) — Tyler Perry and Bill and Hillary Clinton were among the attendees of a private memorial service for Cicely Tyson at Harlem's famed Abyssinian Baptist Church.

The memorial service Tuesday came a day after hundreds of admirers of the pioneering Black actor lined up outside the church for a public viewing. Some said they had come from as far as Atlanta or Los Angeles to be there.

Abyssinian Baptist's pastor, Rev. Calvin O. Butts, said afterwards that Tyson was an example of “a life well lived and an example of how we all might live,” adding, “She was as much an ambassador for peace and love as anybody I can think of.”

Also in attendance for the nearly three-hour service were gospel singer Bebe Winans and Valerie Simpson of the duo Ashford & Simpson.

During the ceremony, the sun broke through the clouds and the temperature rose past 40 for the first time in the snowy city more than a week.

Tyson died Jan. 28. The New York-born actor was 96.

Tyson was the first Black woman to have a recurring role in a dramatic television series, the 1963 drama “East Side, West Side.” Her performance as a sharecropper's wife in the 1972 movie “Sounder” cemented her stardom and earned her an Oscar nomination.

She went on to win two Emmy Awards for playing the 110-year-old former slave in the 1974 television drama “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” and another Emmy 20 years later for “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.”

At age 88, Tyson won a Tony Award for the revival of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” in 2013. President Barack Obama awarded her the Medal of Freedom in 2016.