Honorary Oscar winner Cicely Tyson passed today at the age of 96. During a career that spanned seven decades, Tyson appeared in dozens of films, TV series, telefilms and on Broadway, winning a Tony Award for The Trip to Bountiful in 2013. She might be best known to younger audiences for her role in the hit ABC drama How to Get Away with Murder, on which she recurred as Ophelia Harkness, mother of lead character Annalise Harkness (Viola Davis).
Tyson made her silver-screen debut in 1957’s Carib Gold and went on to appear in such films as The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1967), George Cukor’s The Blue Bird (1976) — which also featured Elizabeth Taylor, Jane Fonda and Ava Gardner — A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich (1978) and 1981 Richard Pryor comedy Bustin’ Loose, Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005) and Madea’s Family Reunion (2006) and Best Picture Oscar nominee The Help (2011).
Tyson also appeared in a number of Broadway plays. Recently, she starred opposite James Earl Jones in The Gin Game and with Cuba Gooding Jr. in Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful. She won a lead actress Tony Award for the latter and would reprise her role as Mrs. Carrie Watts for the 2014 telefilm, earning an Emmy nomination for that performance.
In total, Tyson racked up 16 career Emmy nominations and won three, including two in 1974 for her legendary turn in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, in which she played a Southern woman who was born into slavery and lives to join the civil rights movement. She was the first Black woman to win a Lead Actress Emmy.
Click on the photo above to launch a gallery of Tyson’s best known works on the big and small screen.