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*Mabel King was born on December 25, 1932. She was a Black film, stage, and television actress and singer.
She was born Mabel Elizabeth Washington in Charleston, South Carolina, the daughter of Rosalie Washington and Joseph Washington. She was raised in Harlem, New York, where she became a gospel and nightclub singer. She did not start acting until her mid-thirties, in 1966, when she played the role of Maria in the national touring play Porgy and Bess. She played in the Broadway musical/comedy Hello, Dolly the following year.
In 1972, she appeared in the Broadway musical Don't Play Us Cheap. The following year, she appeared in the film version of the play. That same year, she played the Queen of Myrthia in the horror film Ganja & Hess. In January 1975, she played the role of Evilene, the Wicked Witch of the West, in the all-Black cast of the Broadway musical The Wiz. The role earned her a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical.
In 1978, she reprised the role of Evillene for the 1978 film version of The Wiz, which brought her much film attention. Soon after, she received roles in the films The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings, with Billy Dee Williams and James Earl Jones, and Scott Joplin, with Billy Dee Williams and Clifton Davis. In June 1980, King returned to stage work, starring in the Broadway musical. It's So Nice to Be Civilized. In 1976, she was offered the role of Mabel Thomas on the sitcom What's Happening!!, a role she played from 1976 to 1978. Due to disagreements with the creators' direction to take the series, King left What's Happening!! It was the second time in her career that she appeared in a movie after being in the stage version, the first being Don't Play Us Cheap. The following year, she appeared in the film The Jerk. King received mostly guest spots on television series, including Fantasy Island, The Jeffersons, Amazing Stories, and Tales from the Darkside.
In between, she reprised the role of Mama Johnson in the made-for-TV movie The Jerk, Too (1984). Her last two movie roles were Scrooged (1988) and Dead Men Don't Die (1990). She was married to Melvin King from June 1967 until September 1989. They had one child, a son named Larry King. King was diabetic, and in 1986, one of her toes was amputated due to the disease. In 1990, King suffered a stroke and entered the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. In 1991, King's diabetes resulted in the amputation of her left leg. In 1994, her right leg was also amputated. King would also lose one of her arms to diabetes. Her son, Larry, died in 1996.
She is best known as Mabel "Mama" Thomas on the sitcom What's Happening and Evillene the Witch, a role she originated in the stage musical The Wiz and the reprised film adaptation. Mabel King died on November 9, 1999, at age 66.