Skip to main content

'Golden Girls' star Rue McClanahan dies at 76

By Alan Duke, CNN
  • "Rue was a close and dear friend," co-star Betty White says
  • Rue McClanahan's family at hospital with star when she died
  • McClanahan won an Emmy in 1987
  • White is last surviving "Golden Girls" star

New York (CNN) -- Emmy-winning "Golden Girls" actress Rue McClanahan died of a stroke in a New York hospital early Thursday, her manager said. She was 76.

McClanahan, who suffered a cerebral hemorrhage last Monday, was surrounded by family when she died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, according to manager Barbara Lawrence.

The actress' career began on the New York stage in the 1950s, but her long television career was first boosted when producer Norman Lear cast McClanahan in his hit CBS series "All in the Family" in 1971. She appeared in Lear's "Maude" a year later.

Her most memorable TV role was as Southern belle Blanche Devereaux on "The Golden Girls," which ran from 1985 through 1992. McClanahan won an Emmy for best lead actress in a comedy in 1987.

Video: Rue McClanahan on 'Golden' visionary

Betty White is the last surviving member of the four "Golden Girls" stars.

"Rue was a close and dear friend," White said Thursday. "I treasured our relationship. It hurts more than I even thought it would, if that's possible."

Estelle Getty passed away in 2008, and Bea Arthur died last year.

McClanahan requested that no funeral be held for her, but memorial services will be announced for later this summer in New York and Los Angeles, California, Lawrence said.

Fans can pay their respects online, a family statement said.

"Please join us in celebrating Rue's amazing life" by visiting a memorial page established for her on Facebook, the family said.

McClanahan's last comedic TV role was in an episode of Tyler Perry's "Meet the Browns," taped in 2009.

She carried the Devereaux character to three other TV series, including "The Golden Palace," "Empty Nest" and "Nurses."

She was married six times and had one child. Her son, Mark Bish, was born in 1958 during a brief first marriage.

Her present marriage to Morrow Wilson, starting in 1997, was her longest. Her book "My First Five Husbands ... And the Ones Who Got Away" was published in 2007.

McClanahan was born in Healdton, Oklahoma, on February 21, 1934, to parents with Scottish and native American heritage.

CNN's Jack Hannah contributed to this report.