On October 31, 1896, the famed actress, blues, jazz and gospel singer Ethel Waters was born in Chester, Pennsylvania.
Although Waters would reach the top of her career as an actress and singer, her early years were far from glamorous. Born to a teenage mother, Waters had a difficult childhood, moving from one impoverished place to another while never living longer than short periods of time in any area while growing up around Philadelphia. Waters started singing professionally at age seventeen and quickly rose to stardom. She moved to New York City in the mid-1920’s and eventually landing on Broadway and later into the movies. Some of her best known recordings are “Stormy Weather”, “Dinah”, “Cabin in the Sky” and the gospel favorite “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”
During the height of her career, Waters was one of the highest paid performers in the country. She was the first African American woman to receive an Emmy nomination in 1962 and the second African American to be nominated for an Academy Award. She was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Christian Music Hall of Fame and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. In the 1960’s Waters toured with the Rev. Billy Graham. She died on September 1, 1977 in Chatsworth, California at age 80.