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Billie Allen Obituary

1/13/1925 - 12/29/2015| Visit Guest Book
Billy Allen (Getty Images / Getty Images Entertainment / Daniel Zuchnik)
Billy Allen (Getty Images / Getty Images Entertainment / Daniel Zuchnik)
Actress Billie Allen, who was one of the first African-American actresses to appear in commercials on television, has died, according to multiple news sources. She was 90.

Allen, who was a close friend of the actress Ruby Dee, died Dec. 29, 2015, at her home in Manhattan, New York. Her daughter, Carolyn Grant, confirmed her death, but no cause was provided.

Although Allen was not as famous as Dee, she played a large role in American theater. Along with the actor Morgan Freeman and other people, she co-founded the Frank Silvera Writers Workshop in Harlem, New York, in 1973. Silvera was an actor, director and acting teacher who had died three years earlier.

Allen, who trained at the Actors Studio in New York, New York, was born Jan. 13, 1925, in Richmond, Virginia. Around the age of 20, she moved to New York City and danced on Broadway shows, including the 1947 musical revue "Caribbean Carnival," 1952's "Four Saints in Three Acts" and "My Darlin' Aida," the 1952 adaptation of Verdi's opera.

After her final Broadway appearance in 1969, she went on to act in the network series "The Phil Silvers Show" alongside Silvers, who played Sgt. Bilko. Allen played a member of the Women's Army Corps; as such, she was among the first African-American actresses with a recurring role on a TV series. Other credits on TV include "Souls of Sin," "Black Like Me" and "Car 54, Where Are You?"

She also was one of the first African-Americans to appear in TV commercials. Diapers, dish soap and other cleaning products were among the products she pitched.

About her role in commercials, she once quipped that African-American consumers could now "worry about dentures, dishpan hands and bad breath, just as everyone else in TV land seems to."

Allen was preceded in death by her second husband, the composer Luther Henderson, who died in 2003. She is survived by her daughter, Carolyn Grant; a son, Duane Grant Jr.; a brother; a granddaughter and a number of stepchildren.
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Published online on December 29, 2015 courtesy of Tributes.com
Actress Billie Allen, who was one of the first African-American actresses to appear in commercials on television, has died, according to multiple news sources. For full obituary and coverage from... Read Obituary

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