Born on this day in Newport News, Virginia, passionate singer and actress Pearl Mae Bailey (1918-1988) was the youngest of four children and started her performing career at age 15. Star of stage, films, and music, the beloved entertainer made her Broadway debut in 1946.
She believed show business was a way to spread and "show love." The jazz singer said: "There is a way to look at the past. Don't hide from it. It will not catch you if you don't repeat it."
Pearlie Mae won a Tony Award for her role in the first all-Black version of Hello, Dolly! in 1968. In a role made for her singing and dancing, she proved a black artist could revitalize a role originally created for a white actor.
"When you're young, the silliest notions seem the greatest achievements," she believed.
A tireless campaigner for world peace, in 1975, she was appointed by Gerald Ford to serve as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations and reappointed by Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. U.N. Ambassador Vernon Walters called her a "national treasure."
"Do not worry about whether or not the sun will rise," she said. "Be prepared to enjoy it."
She was a celebration of kindness and light. Her co-star and friend Cab Calloway said that "Pearl was love, pure and simple love."