Cicely Tyson's distinguished career has earned her nominations at the Oscars, Golden Globes and the Tonys, and a win at the Emmys, but she didn't start acting until her early mid-20s.
As a youngster in New York City, she sang in her church choir. After graduating from high school, she became a Red Cross secretary; during that time, she went to modeling school and soon became a top African American magazine model.
Finally in the late '50s and early '60s, she turned to theater, earning stellar notices for Jean Genet’s “The Blacks,” “Moon on a Rainbow Shawl” and “Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright!”
In 1963, she was cast as George C. Scott’s secretary in the well-regarded CBS series “East Side/West Side,” about an inner-city social worker. She continued to work in theater, TV and films and finally became a major star in 1972’s “Sounder” as the matriarch of a Depression-era sharecropping family. She received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for her turn.
She won an Emmy for her glowing performance in the 1973 TV movie “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” about an African American woman who lives from the slavery era to the Civil Rights movement. She also starred as Kunta Kinte mother’s in the landmark 1977 miniseries “Roots."
Tyson returned to Broadway in the 1983 revival of “The Corn Is Green.” In more recent years, she has continued to be one of the leading stars of TV movies and miniseries, and has been a member of Tyler Perry’s company of players in feature films.
As for Tyson's personal life: In the 1960s, she fell in love with jazz great Miles Davis. The two married in 1981 only to divorce seven years later.