Gospel legend Albertina Walker died Friday from respiratory complications. She was 81.
She had been battling emphysema.
"We are thanking everyone for their prayers through this very difficult time, and we know that she is out of her suffering and in a better place," said a family spokesperson.
The Chicago native, known as the "Queen of Gospel," began singing at age 4 in the children's choir at West Point Baptist Church. Under the advisement of Mahalia Jackson, Walker, then 22, founded her own gospel group, The Caravans.
The Caravans became household names with hits such as "Mary Don't You Weep" and "Walk Around Heaven."
Walker then went solo and recorded many hits, including "I've Got A Feeling Everything Will Be Alright," "Jesus Will Fix It" and "I'm Still Here." She's received numerous awards including Grammy and Stellar Awards and was the first Chicago recipient of the prestigious National Endowment of the Arts.
"She was not only a gospel music legend to millions around the world, she was the voice of the Civil Rights Movement and her music was a healing balm to those who struggled for justice. Tina has left a huge imprint on gospel music and she now joins Mahalia Jackson, Fr. Thomas Dorsey, the Rev. James Cleveland, and others, in God's heavenly choir. Every time the thunder rolls, I will know she just stepped to the microphone," said U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-IL.
Walker had been a staple at Chicago's annual Gospel Fest for years wowing the crowd with her large voice.
Her career includes singing for Presidents and world leaders, and also launched the careers of many gospel artists such as Inez Andrews, Shirley Caesar, James Cleveland, Dorothy Norwood, among others.
In 1989 the Albertina Walker Scholarship Foundation was established. It has given hundreds of thousands in scholarships to aspiring entertainers.
Walker was also a founding board member of the Chicago Gospel Music Heritage Museum Inc.