Theresa Merritt

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Theresa Merritt
Born(1922-09-24)September 24, 1922
DiedJune 12, 1998(1998-06-12) (aged 75)
OccupationActress, singer
Years active1969–1998
Benjamin Hines (m. 1945)

Theresa Merritt Hines (September 24, 1922  – June 12, 1998) was an American stage, film, and television actress and singer.


Born in Emporia, Virginia, Merritt appeared in many theatrical productions but gained fame later in life when she starred in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, for which she earned a Tony Award nomination,[1] and The Wiz, in which she replaced Mabel King as Evelline. She left The Wiz, citing the role's harmful effect on her voice. She then starred in the television sitcom That's My Mama.[2]

Merritt's other Broadway credits included Mule Bone (1991), Division Street (1980), Don't Play Us Cheap! (1972), The Crucible (1972), Trumpets of the Lord (1969), Golden Boy (1964), Tambourines to Glory (1963), and Carmen Jones (1943, 1945, 1947).[3] She also toured with road companies of Funny Girl, Show Boat, and South Pacific.[4]

Her most notable film roles were Aunt Em in the 1978 film version of The Wiz, Mrs. Crosby in the 1977 film adaptation of Neil Simon's The Goodbye Girl, and Juanita in the Adam Sandler comedy Billy Madison. She also appeared alongside Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton in the film adaptation of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

Personal life and death[edit]

Merritt was married to Benjamin Hines and they had four children. During the 34th National Convention of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Merritt and E. Fannie Granton of Jet magazine were made honorary members of the sorority in 1977. Merritt died of skin cancer on June 12, 1998, in The Bronx.[5]


Year Title Role Notes
1971 They Might Be Giants Peggy
1977 Proof of the Man Maria
The Goodbye Girl Mrs. Crosby
1978 The Wiz Aunt Em
1979 The Great Santini Arrabella Smalls Alternative titles: The Ace
The Gift of Fury
All That Jazz Cast of NY / LA #4
1982 The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas Jewel
1988 Astonished Ida
The Serpent and the Rainbow Simone
1989 Zwei Frauen Nurse Wilson Alternative title: Silence Like Glass
1991 Voodoo Dawn Madame Daslay Alternative title: Strange Turf
1995 Billy Madison Juanita
1998 Dangerous Proposition Grace
Home Fries Mrs. Vaughan (final film role)
Year Title Role Notes
1969 J.T. Mama Meley Television movie
1973 The Furst Family of Washington Eloise "Mama" Furst Television movie
1974–1975 That's My Mama Eloise "Mama" Curtis 39 episodes
1975 Police Story Mrs. Johnson 1 episode
1980 NBC Special Treat 1 episode
1983 The Love Boat Faye Pillips 1 episode
1984 Concealed Enemies Clytie Catlett Television movie
1988 Miracle at Beekman's Place Sarag Coleman Television movie
1997 Law & Order Ruth Titus 1 episode
1998 NYPD Blue Bernice 1 episode
Cosby Edna Stone 1 episode


  1. ^ "("Theresa Merritt" search results)". Tony Awards. Tony Award Productions. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  2. ^ Terrace, Vincent (2011). Encyclopedia of Television Shows, 1925 through 2010 (2nd ed.). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. p. 1067. ISBN 978-0-7864-6477-7.
  3. ^ "Theresa Merritt". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on 4 June 2019. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  4. ^ "Theresa Merritt". Variety. June 22, 1998. Archived from the original on 4 June 2019. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
  5. ^ Lyman, Rick (1998-06-21). "Theresa Merritt, 75, Praised In Role of Ma Rainey, Is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-06-10.

External links[edit]