On this day in comedy on September 24, 1922 Actress, Singer, Theresa Merritt Hines was born in Emporia, Virginia
Merritt gained early notoriety as an accomplished stage actress. She worked the theater circuit for years and then had a breakout performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; for which she was nominated for a Tony Award. When her colleague, Mabel King fell ill, Merritt replaced her in the stage version of The Wiz, but the rigors of the production began to have adverse effects on her voice, so Merritt quit. She needed something less strenuous. Ah, TV.
Theresa Merritt starred in the ABC sitcom That’s My Mama opposite Clifton Davis and Lynne Moody. Teddy Wilson and Ted Lange also co-starred in this show about a bachelor barber and his mother. The show ran from September 4, 1974 – Christmas Eve 1975 and after 39 episodes it was cancelled. Without missing a beat Merritt went to movies. She played the part of Aunt Em in the film version of The Wiz. She also appeared alongside Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, with Adam Sandler in Billy Madison and was featured in Neil Simon’s The Goodbye Girl and Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz.
Theresa Merritt died in the Bronx of skin cancer on June 12, 1998 at age 75.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
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