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Mary Wilson, Founding Member Of 'The Supremes,' Dies At 76

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mary Wilson, a founding member of The Supremes, has died.

The singer's publicist says she passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at her home outside Las Vegas on Monday night at age 76.

The cause of her death was not immediately known.

Founded as the Primettes in Detroit, the Supremes were one of the biggest musical acts of the 1960s with more than a dozen number one singles.

"I remember instead of going home on the bus, we flew. That was our first plane ride. We flew home. We had really hit big," Wilson said.

Wilson, alongside Diana Ross and the late Florence Ballard, made up the original iconic Motown group, later inducted into the Roll and Roll Hall of Fame.

But it wasn't all glitz and glamor back then.

"People were not very nice to me because I was Black. But once you start making money and you become famous, then you're something special," Wilson said.

Wilson said they were so poor, they initially made their own gowns. She talked about that experience on CBS' "The Talk" in 2020.

"We did go to Woolworths, anybody here remember Woolworths? And we bought our little pearls, $5 pearls, and we bought some Butterick patterns and Diane and I made outfits," Wilson said.

The gorgeous gowns they wore ended up on a tour all their own.

In 2019, the Prudential Center in Newark unveiled the "Legends of Motown: Celebrating the Supremes" exhibit curated by the Grammy Museum.

It included the gowns they wore when the trio met the Queen Mother in 1968.

"We did a command performance, and for three little Black girls who lived in the Brewster projects in Detroit, Michigan, for us to do a command performance," Wilson said.

"It was more than the music. It was the impact the Supremes had on civil rights," said Peter Mustich, who has been friends with Wilson for 40 years.

He says she talked about how she wanted to be remembered.

"They proved to the world that it didn't matter the color of your skin or where you came from, but what you had to offer and what you did with it, and they became cultural ambassadors to the world," Mustich told CBS2's Alice Gainer.

After the Supremes disbanded in 1977, Wilson became a best-selling author and an activist.

Diana Ross offered her condolences and tweeted in part, "I have so many wonderful memories of our time together. The Supremes will live on in our hearts."

She is survived by her daughter, her son, 10 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

Wilson was an inspiration who leaves behind adoring fans everywhere, many grateful for the doors she opened.

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