The legendary actress died of cancer on Oct. 4 in L.A., her daughter, Susan Kay, confirmed to PEOPLE. She was 84.
Born Carol Diahann Johnson to subway motorman John and nurse Mabel Johnson in the Bronx, New York, Carroll grew up in Harlem, where her family moved when she was an infant. Carroll started her career at 15, modeling for Essence magazine, but her heart was in performing: “I always knew I had to do something that was in front of an audience,” Carroll told PEOPLE in 2008.
Throughout her life, Carroll’s professional career in acting flourished in groundbreaking fashion. In 1962, she won the best actress Tony Award for her performance in the Broadway musical No Strings — a first for a black woman, and then in 1968, she became the first black star to play a role other than that of a domestic worker on her own TV series, Julia.
Carroll told PEOPLE she found the pioneer label to be a complicated but tremendous blessing, particularly with regard to Julia. “The attention and responsibility were so stressful,” the actress-singer said in 2008. “But I’m enormously proud of that show.”
Carroll was married four times. First to Monte Kay from 1956–62, during which they had a daughter, Suzanne, a journalist and screenwriter. After a failed engagement to TV presenter David Frost, she married Las Vegas boutique owner Freddé Glusman in 1971 but filed for divorce several weeks later. In 1975 she married Jet magazine editor Robert DeLeon, who died in a car accident in March 1977. Ten years later, Carroll married singer Vic Damone. They divorced in 1996.
After decades in the spotlight, Carroll will long be remembered for her tremendous and trailblazing talent.
The AP first reported news of her death.