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Gail Fisher
Gail Fisher Mark Stewart Mannix 1970.JPG
Fisher and Mark Stewart (Mannix, 1970)
Born(1935-08-18)August 18, 1935
DiedDecember 2, 2000(2000-12-02) (aged 65)
Years active1959–1990
John Levy
(m. 1964; div. 1972)

Robert A. Walker
(m. 1973; div. 1973)
Wali Muhammad (Walter Youngblood)

Gail Fisher (August 18, 1935 – December 2, 2000) was an American actress who was one of the first black women to play substantive roles in American television.[2] She was best known for playing the role of secretary Peggy Fair on the television detective series Mannix from 1968 through 1975, a role for which she won two Golden Globe Awards and an Emmy Award; she was the first African-American woman to win those prestigious awards. She also won an NAACP Image Award in 1969.[3] In addition to her acting career, Fisher was a successful jazz lyricist.

Early years

The youngest of five children, Fisher was born in Orange, New Jersey.[3] Her father died when she was two years old, and she was raised by her mother, Ona Fisher, who supported her family with a home-operated hair-styling business while living in the Potter's Crossing neighborhood of Edison, New Jersey. She graduated from Metuchen High School in Metuchen, New Jersey. During her teenage years, she was a cheerleader and entered several beauty contests, winning the titles of Miss Transit, Miss Black New Jersey, and Miss Press Photographer.[4][5]

In a contest sponsored by Coca-Cola, Fisher won the opportunity to spend two years studying acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. As a student of acting in New York City, she worked with Lee Strasberg[6] and became a member of the Repertory Theater at Lincoln Center, where she worked with Elia Kazan and Herbert Blau.[4][5][7] As a young woman, she also worked as a model.[5]


Fisher made her first television appearance in 1960 at age 25, appearing in the NTA Film Network program The Play of the Week.[2] Also during the early 1960s, she appeared in a television commercial for All laundry detergent, which she said made her "the first black female—no, make that black, period—to make a national TV commercial, on camera, with lines."[4][7] In 1965, Herbert Blau cast her in a theatrical production of Danton's Death.[4]

She first appeared in Mannix during the second season, when Mannix leaves a detective firm and sets up shop as a private investigator. She became the second African American woman after Nichelle Nichols of Star Trek to show prominently on weekly television. In 1968, she made guest appearances on the TV series My Three Sons; Love, American Style; and Room 222.[2] In 1970, her work on Mannix was honored when she received the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, becoming the first African-American woman to do so. In 1971, Fisher became the first African-American woman to win a Golden Globe, and won her second in 1973. After Mannix was cancelled in 1975, she appeared on television about once a year, guest starring on popular shows such as Fantasy Island, Knight Rider, General Hospital, and The White Shadow.[2]


Fisher was also a lyricist for a number of jazz songs. With Vincent Levy, she wrote lyrics to Joe Zawinul's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," first performed by The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in 1966.[8] The song was covered by dozens of artists, including The Buckinghams, who took the vocal version to #5 in August 1967.[9] Fisher wrote lyrics for another Adderley song, "Do Do Do (What Now is Next)," with music by Nat Adderley, featured on the Cannonball Adderley Quintet's 1967 album 74 Miles Away. On the album's liner notes, critic Leonard Feather calls Fisher "the prettiest songwriter in town."[10] Fisher also wrote lyrics for an existing jazz standard, "Stolen Moments," composed by Oliver Nelson; the vocal version was first recorded by Carmen McRae and Betty Carter on their 1987 album The Carmen McRae – Betty Carter Duets.[11]

Personal life

Fisher was married and divorced three times. She had two daughters, Samara and Jolie, from her 1964 marriage to John Levy.[4] Her marriage to Wali Muhammad (Walter Youngblood), famed cornerman to Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali, ended in divorce when he changed religions. Wali was also an assistant minister to Malcolm X at Nation of Islam Mosque No. 7.[12][13][14] Jet magazine reported in its July 26, 1973 issue that she also was married to Robert A. Walker, a businessman from Los Angeles.[15]


Fisher died in Los Angeles in 2000, aged 65, reportedly from kidney failure.[3][4][note 1] Twelve hours later, her brother Clifton died from heart failure.



Year Title Role Notes
1960 The New Girl The New Girl in the Office Short film co–written by Lewis Freedman and Lester Cooper and directed by Freedman
1987 Mankillers Joan Hanson Action film written and directed by David A. Prior[16][17]


Year Title Role Notes
1959–60 The Play of the Week Joyce Lane Episode: "Simply Heavenly"
Guest Episode: "Climate of Eden"
1962 The Defenders The Singer Episode: "Grandma TNT"
1963 The Doctors Diane Recurring
1967 He & She Helen Episode: "One of Our Firemen is Missing"
The Second Hundred Years Young Matron Episode: "Luke's First Christmas"
1968 My Three Sons Carla Episode: "Gossip, Incorporated"
1968–1975 Mannix Peggy Fair 147 episodes
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film (1972, 1974)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (1971–1973)
1969 Love, American Style Mercy Segment: "Love and the Hustler"
1970 Insight Mrs. Carter Episode: "The Incident on Danker Street"
1971 Celebrity Bowling Herself Recurring
1971 Room 222 Diana Brown Episode: "Welcome Back, Miss Brown"
Love, American Style Penny Segment: "Love and the Baby"
1972 Every Man Needs One Pauline Kramer Made-for-TV-film written by Carl Kleinschmitt and directed by Jerry Paris
1975 Medical Center Bonnie Horne Episode: "Street Girl"
1979 Fantasy Island Dr. Frantz Episode: "Hit Man/The Swimmer"
1982 General Hospital Judge Heller Recurring
1983 Knight Rider Thelma Episode: "Short Notice"
1985 Hotel Fran Willis Episode: "Hearts and Minds"
1986 He's the Mayor Lila Episode: "Take My Father Please"
1990 Donor Secretary Made-for-TV-film written by Michael Braverman and directed by Larry Shaw

Awards and honors

Year Result Award Category Television series
1970 Won Emmy Awards Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Drama Mannix
1971 Nominated Emmy Awards Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Drama Mannix
1972 Nominated Emmy Awards Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Drama Mannix
1973 Nominated Emmy Awards Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in Drama Mannix
1971 Won Golden Globe Award Best Supporting Actress - Television Series Mannix
1972 Nominated Golden Globe Award Best Supporting Actress - Television Series Mannix
1973 Won Golden Globe Award Best Actress - Television Series Drama Mannix
1974 Nominated Golden Globe Award Best Supporting Actress - Television Series Mannix



  1. ^ The reference book African Americans in the Performing Arts says that Fisher died of lung cancer.


  1. ^ "Gail Fisher". 31 March 2014. Retrieved 2020-07-09.
  2. ^ a b c d "Gail Fisher". African American Registry. Archived from the original on October 4, 2009. Retrieved August 22, 2009. The article cites Jet as its source.
  3. ^ a b c Otfinoski 2010, pp. 68–69.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Van Gelder, Lawrence (February 20, 2001). "Gail Fisher, 65, TV Actress Who Won Emmy for 'Mannix'". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved February 20, 2001.
  5. ^ a b c Laurie Jarmon (1995), Gail Fisher, in Notable Black American Women, Jessie Carney Smith, editor. ISBN 0-8103-9177-5. Pages 223–224.
  6. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 278. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
  7. ^ a b "TV Actress Gail Fisher Dies at 65". Associated Press. New York City: Associated Press, Inc. February 22, 2001. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
  8. ^ "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy". SecondHandSongs. Retrieved March 27, 2023.
  9. ^ "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy". Billboard Database. Retrieved March 27, 2023.
  10. ^ "74 Miles Away". Retrieved March 27, 2023.
  11. ^ "Stolen Moments". SecondHandSongs. Retrieved March 27, 2023.
  12. ^ "SecondsOut Boxing News - Thomas Hauser - Mike Tyson and Other Notes". October 26, 2009. Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  13. ^ "In loving memory of W'ali "Blood" Mohammad" (PDF). Retrieved 2020-07-09.
  14. ^ Allah, The (January 22, 2012). "The Allah Team™: Wali Mohammed (R.I.P.)". Retrieved October 7, 2016.
  15. ^ "Mannix Girl Orders Spouse To Stay Away From Her". Jet. Johnson Publishing Company. July 26, 1973. p. 57. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  16. ^ Mankillers. Olive Films (Blu-ray). Chicago: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. September 13, 2016. ASIN B01HNBX05A. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  17. ^ Mankillers. Olive Films (DVD). Chicago: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. September 13, 2016. ASIN B01HNBX050. Retrieved March 18, 2019.


External links

This page was last edited on 8 April 2023, at 12:26
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