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Ethel Waters Biography

Birth Place:
Chester, Pennsylvania, United States
Singer, actor

Fast Facts

  • Grew up in Philadelphia
  • Married the first of her three husbands when she was 13
  • Was one of the first African-Americans to appear on television, in a 1939 special, The Ethel Waters Show, on NBC
  • Penned two autobiographies: His Eye Is on the Sparrow, which was a best seller, and To Me It's Wonderful
  • Won a New York Drama Critics Award in 1950 for her role in The Member of the Wedding
  • Toured with evangelist Billy Graham's crusades from 1960 to '75
  • Made TV history when she became the first African-American woman to receive an Emmy nomination, for her 1961 appearance on Route 66
  • U
  • S
  • Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp in her honor in September 1994


  • Clyde Edward Matthews -- Ex-husband
  • Edward Mallory -- Ex-husband
  • Merritt 'Buddy' Purnsley -- Ex-husband
  • John Waters -- Father
  • Sally Anderson -- Grandmother
  • Genevieve Howard -- Half Sister
  • Louise Anderson -- Mother
  • Norman Joseph Howard -- Stepfather