Florez Kathy Sledge (Williams) (1928 - 2007)

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Nicknames: "Florence", "Charlene?"
Birthplace: North Carolina, United States
Death: Died in Phoenix, Maricopa, Arizona, United States
Cause of death: Stroke
Occupation: Chorine, actress, waitress, manager, realtor
Managed by: Erica Isabel Howton, (c)
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Florez Kathy Sledge (Williams)

From 'We Are Family' still Allen's theme ... By Kristin E. Holmes INQUIRER STAFF WRITER POSTED: February 18, 2007

"Mother Sledge, Flo, who now co-manages the group, was a chorine before marrying tap dancer Edwin Sledge of the Fred and Sledge duo, performers on Broadway and The Ed Sullivan Show. They split in 1964, and Edwin joined the ministry in Houston, raised another family and rarely sees his daughters. So Flo waitressed to support her girls. "Because my hours were long and crazy," she recalls, "they sang to have something to do." The sisters harmonized in front of mirrors before braving church and school appearances, but were prepared for stardom: They sprayed old 45s with gold paint and hung them on the walls."


From Florez K. Sledge, 79; her daughters were Sister Sledge Philadelphia Inquirer, May 25, 2007

Florez Kathy Sledge, 79, mother and business manager of Philadelphia's sensational Sister Sledge, whose Grammy-winning "We Are Family" became a mantra for togetherness, died of a stroke May 17 at Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix. Mrs. Sledge had lived in West Philadelphia before moving to Phoenix 10 years ago.

Born Florez Kathy Williams, the eldest daughter of an opera singer, she left Youngstown, Ohio, after high school. She immediately began singing and dancing in Harlem clubs and played bit parts in movies, said daughter Kathy Lightfoot.

She had a daughter, Norma Carol Blackmon, before marrying Edwin Sledge in 1954. The couple moved to West Philadelphia and had four daughters, each one year apart, before divorcing in the mid-1960s.

Mrs. Sledge's four younger daughters began singing at churches and civic events as children.

"We were always singing. We sang when we jumped rope, we sang when we played jacks," Lightfoot said. "Our mother and grandmother taught us four-part harmony and encouraged us."

Mrs. Sledge, who worked three jobs to support her family, told her daughters they had been gifted. "She read our palms and made us feel special, through good times and bad," Lightfoot said.

Mrs. Sledge was a firm disciplinarian, but fun.

"It was like having Mary Poppins as a mother," her daughters said. "She dressed us up and took us for rides through pretty neighborhoods and said someday we would live in houses like that."

"She had a way of making us enjoy life," Lightfoot said. "She was a beautiful woman and our driving force. My grandmother always said you could not buy class. My mother had class."

Debra DeBruine, Joni Sledge, Kim Allen and Kathy's singing career took off before they finished high school. While on the road singing, their mother was always there. "She was the perfect backstage mom - she was brilliant," they said.

Mrs. Sledge stressed education even more than singing. The family toured the states in a bus. Mrs. Sledge was always there "to make sure other people around us behaved," Lightfoot said. She hired tutors and each daughter graduated from high school and eventually earned bachelor's degrees from Temple University.

Sister Sledge released its first album, Circle of Love, in 1974. The group's popularity exploded in 1979 with the release of the breakthrough album We Are Family. The song became a worldwide family anthem and was adopted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1980, the year they won the World Series.

In the 1980s, the sisters married and had children.

Mrs. Sledge's eldest daughter, Norma Carol, who teaches school in Philadelphia, filled in if one was on maternity leave. "Dick Clark called Carol 'the closet sister,' " Lightfoot said.

In the mid-1980s, Mrs. Sledge stopped managing the group and earned a Realtors license at Temple University. She moved to Arizona where she continued to encourage young people to earn an education and stay out of trouble, her family said.

"Mother was with us when we last performed group at a Katrina benefit," her daughters said. "But, we also sang spirituals for her around her hospital bed."

In addition to her daughters, Mrs. Sledge is survived by 15 grandchildren; three sisters and a brother.

A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Salem Baptist Church of Jenkintown, 610 Summit Ave. Burial will be in Ivy Hill Cemetery, 1201 Easton Rd. A memorial service will be held June 2 in Phoenix.


  1. 1940 US Federal Census "Florence, age 13, born North Carolina.". Head of household: James Williams.
  2. Florez Sledge, mom of singing sisters Besides Kathy, Florez is survived by her four other daughters, Carol S. Blackmon, Debra S. DeBruine, Joan, and Kim S. Allen; three sisters, Geraldine Kennedy, Norma Wiggins and Marian Williams; a brother, Kenneth Williams, and 15 grandchildren."
  3. Find A Grave Memorial# 52131140
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Florez Kathy Sledge's Timeline

January 15, 1928
North Carolina, United States
Age 11
Youngstown, Mahoning, Ohio, United States

1940 United States Federal Census
Name: James Williams
Respondent: Yes
Age: 34
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1906
Gender: Male
Race: Negro (Black)
Birthplace: Mississippi
Marital Status: Married
Relation to Head of House: Head
Home in 1940: Youngstown, Mahoning, Ohio
Map of Home in 1940:
House Number: 1142
Farm: No
Inferred Residence in 1935: Youngstown, Mahoning, Ohio
Residence in 1935: Same Place
Resident on farm in 1935: No
Sheet Number: 7A
Number of Household in Order of Visitation: 135
Occupation: Laborer
House Owned or Rented: Rented
Value of Home or Monthly Rental if Rented: 22
Attended School or College: No
Highest Grade Completed: High School, 4th year
Hours Worked Week Prior to Census: 32
Class of Worker: Wage or salary worker in private work
Weeks Worked in 1939: 36
Income: 900
Income Other Sources: No
Household Members:
Name Age
James Williams
Viola Williams
Florence Williams
Geralline Williams
Dondald Williams
Edna Ray Williams
Source Citation: Year: 1940; Census Place: Youngstown, Mahoning, Ohio; Roll: T627_3273; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 96-122.
Source Information:

July 9, 1954
Age 26
Philadelphia, Philadelphia , Pennsylvania, United States
Age 25
September 13, 1956
Age 28
Philadelphia, Philadelphia , Pennsylvania, United States
August 21, 1957
Age 29
Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
January 6, 1959
Age 30
Philadelphia, Philadelphia , Pennsylvania, United States
Age 36
Harris , Texas, United States
May 17, 2007
Age 79
Phoenix, Maricopa, Arizona, United States