Oct. 25: Born this date in 1912 in Hickman County, Tenn., Sarah Ophelia Colley went on to attend finishing school in Nashville, become an actress and create the character that would take her to fame as Queen of the Grand Ole Opry: Cousin Minnie Pearl. Here’s a routine from the 1950s, with the great Carl Smith in the role of straight man.

Minnie Pearl's hat on display at the National Museum of American History.

Minnie Pearl's hat on display at the National Museum of American History.

As Minnie Pearl, Sarah Colley Cannon was a member of the Opry from 1940 until her death in 1996. Her performing career ended in 1991, when she suffered a massive stroke.  Minnie Pearl appeared on stages ranging from country schoolhouses to Match Game ’73, from Hee-Haw to Carnegie Hall, from The Tonight Show to Comic Relief, and much more. She’s a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame (here’s her profile) and received a National Medal of the Arts.

Learn more about her at the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, including her fight with cancer and its legacy. Listen to one of her non-humor records from the 1960s, a recitation in response to a Red Sovine tear-jerker straightforwardly titled “Giddyup Go – Answer.” And find out why her statue in her hometown of Centerville — just down the road from Minnie Pearl’s stomping grounds of Grinder’s Switch — put Sarah Cannon back into the news in 2009.

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