The Humor Mill

On This Day In Comedy… In 1999 Comedic Actress Mabel King Passed Away!

Posted Nov 10, 2015


On this day in comedy on November 9, 1999 Actress, Mabel King died from the effects of a stroke and complications of diabetes.

Born Donnie Mabel Elizabeth Washington, King’s introduction to show business was as a nightclub and gospel singer.   She began her acting career in 1966 when she played Maria in “Porgy & Bess”.  From there she did Broadway (“Hello Dolly”, “Don’t Play Us Cheap”, “The Wiz”) and film (reprising her roles in theatrical versions of the latter two plays as well as the horror flick “Ganja & Hess” playing a queen, “Scott Joplin” playing a madam and “The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings” playing Bertha.).    In 1976 King got the co-starring role of the mother in What’s Happening!!, an ABC sitcom centering on the antics of three urban high schoolers.   The show was a major network success, but King left in ’78 after disputes regarding the future direction of the program.

Following her tenure on What’s Happening!!, King continued to work in movies (“The Jerk” as Steve Martin’s mother) and on Broadway until a stroke in 1989 forced her into the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital.  There, she battled diabetes, losing an arm and both of her legs; finally succumbing to the disease on November 9, 1999 (one month before “What’s Happening!!” co-star, Shirley Hemphill’s death).

By Darryl “D’Militant Littleton

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