Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County
Renowned jazz vocalist Pearl Bailey made Philadelphia her home.
Awards: Tony Award, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Hollywood Walk of Fame
Born in 1918, Pearl Bailey became a jazz icon. Through Broadway shows and Hollywood movies, Bailey became known throughout the culture for her acting and singing talents. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1988. Pearl Bailey passed away in 1990 in her Philadelphia home.
Pearl Mae Bailey was born in Newport News, Virginia, on March 29, 1918. Born Pearlie Mae Bailey, she was the daughter of Joseph James Bailey, a minister, and Ella Mae Bailey. On August 31, 1948, she married John Randolph Pinkett, Jr., and was divorced from him in March 1952. On November 19, 1952, she married Louis Bellson, Jr., a jazz drummer, with whom she adopted two children: Tony Bellson and Dee Dee Bellson.
Bailey attended William Penn High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1978, Bailey was awarded an honorary degree from Georgetown University. In 1985, she graduated with the Dean’s Award from Georgetown University with an AB in theology.
Bailey made a living as a singer, stage performer, and author. She was a vocalist with such bands as Count Basie and Cootie Williams. In 1946, she made her Broadway debut in St. Louis Woman; followed by Arms in the Girl, in 1950; Bless You all, 1950; House of Flowers, 1954; and Hello, Dolly!, 1967–69. Bailey’s motion picture work includes Variety Girl, 1947; Isn’t It Romantic, 1948; and Porgy and Bess, 1959. From 1970-1971, Bailey had her own musical variety program on the American Broadcasting Company called The Pearl Bailey Show.
In 1946, Bailey received the Donaldson Award for Most Promising Newcomer to the Broadway Stage for St. Louis Woman. In 1968, she received a special Tony Award for Hello, Dolly!, as well the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Performances for Hello, Dolly!, in 1969. In 1976, she received the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. In 1988, Bailey was given the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. She was also given a star at 7080 Hollywood Boulevard on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Bailey died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 17, 1990, of a heart attack at the age of 72.
The Raw Pearl. New York: Harcourt, 1968.
Talking to Myself. New York: Harcourt, 1971.
Between You and Me: A Heartfelt Memoir on Learning, Loving, and Living. New York: Doubleday, 1989.
Pearl’s Kitchen: An Extraordinary Cookbook. New York: Harcourt, 1973.
Duey’s Tale. New York: Harcourt, 1975.
Hurry Up, America, and Split. New York: Harcourt, 1976.
ldquo; Bailey, Pearl.” Lexis-Nexis’ Academic Universe. Baseline II, Inc. 16 Aug. 2001. Reed Elsevier Inc. 4 Dec. 2001.
“Pearl Mae Bailey”. The Gale Literary Database: Contemporary Authors Online. 3 Feb. 2000. 28 Sept. 2011.
Whetstone, Krista. Bailey, Pearl. Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. Ed. Colin A. Palmer. 2nd ed. Vol. 1. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006. 173. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 28 Sep. 2011.