Transition of Cicely Tyson

Statement on the Passing of Cicely Tyson

I often write when I am in pain.  Tonight is such a night, so please bear with me.  I was just discussing putting a television in “her room” today with Dr. Christian Gregory since we are going through remodeling my place.  I call the room I was speaking of her room, but actually she had a place to sleep when she was here on all three floors. It just depended on where she fell asleep each night! She had the red room    (our Delta room) on the top floor. She had the twin bed in the second floor library room. She had a big round chair on the first level. She would walk into the house, stop there and go to sleep often.

She was a dear friend

I don’t know why she left us today, but I spoke with her agent who said they would have more to say later.  She was here a few months ago for us to attend the funeral service of a mutual friend’s mother. She was so tired after taking an early train from New York that when we got to the church, I had to prop her up during the service. She was the picture of health and told me she was sleeping “under the mattress” to stay away from COVID 19! Just as I did for Dick Gregory when no one else could get him to do a will, I wrote his and I wrote her will a few years ago.  Whenever she traveled, she would call and ask me to make changes–just in case!

Sometimes we collaborated on her speeches on her way to where she was to speak.  She didn’t need a lot of notice to know what she was going to say. She always knew what she wanted to talk about, but she often wanted me to put it together for her–and I did.  One of her favorite topics was “Keep Your Hand on the Plow.” She was a stickler for grammar, but that never bothered me.  She had once been a secretary, and I had once been an English teacher so we worked together just fine.
We shopped together for healthy food at Whole Food and at Mom’s.  She loved going to Target, assuming no one would know her there and she could shop undisturbed.  She would buy things like paper clips, staples, tablets, pretty writing paper–you know just things we ordinary people go shopping for!


The last time she spent a couple of weeks with me, she had so many calls from so many stars to congratulate her.  It was the time she made the cover of Vogue Magazine.  She would often call people back from my home phone.  If they were not available, she left a message and they would dial her back on my phone. Vogue shipped her magazines to her at my home, and we were so excited when they arrived! We began shipping them off to friends.  Viola Davis returned one of her calls on my phone, Tyler Perry called.  Ava DuVernay called. She was excited to talk with all of them, and since she had called many of them from my phone, I had a chance to answer my phone when some of them called her!

She was an early riser and whenever I woke up, she was already up fixing her breakfast. She loved my kitchen because she liked cooking and I rarely used the kitchen.


When President Obama gave her the Presidential Medal of Honor, she camped out at my place, along with her hairdresser, makeup person, dress designer  (Of course you already know that was B. Michael) and whomever else she needed to get ready for the big day.  The day of the event, I walked downstairs in my red dress to wear to the White House with her when she exclaimed, “You can’t wear that.”  Little did I know she was going to wear red, so I yielded to her, went back upstairs and put on blue!  Tyler flew in to surprise her!  Diana Ross, Bill and Melinda Gates, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ellen and many others were there to receive medals–but she was the star!


We laughed a lot together. I will never forget once when she was here.  We went to the nail shop near my place and as we were walking back home, there was a woman walking by us going in the opposite direction and suddenly she stopped right in front of us and said, “You look just like Ms. Tyson.”  Cicely said, “People often tell me that.” The woman shook her head and walked  on, then came back and asked, “Is you huh?”  It was such a funny scene that we laughed all the way home. I will miss her so much, but I have so many more wonderful memories of her that I will never forget. So many people loved her, and I thank all of those from all over the country who’ve called to offer their condolences.  Others like Jeffrey Thompson, Stephanie Lipscomb, Dr. Lezli Baskerville, Terrence Scott, and others called to grieve with me.


Thank you to each of you.

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