In Memoriam: Naomi Judd (1946 – 2022)

Naomi Judd (born Diana Ellen Judd; January 11, 1946 – April 30, 2022) was an American country music singer and actress. In 2021, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame as a member of The Judds alongside her daughter Wynonna.

Judd was born to Pauline Ruth ‘Polly’ (née Oliver; 1927–2019) and Charles Glen Judd (1924–1984) on January 11, 1946, in Ashland, Kentucky. Her father owned a gas station. In 1965, her brother Brian (1948–1965) died of leukemia at the age of 17. Naomi Judd’s first child, Christina Ciminella (later Wynonna Judd), was born when Judd was 18. After the birth of her daughter Ashley (April 1968), who later became a film and stage actress, and the end of her marriage to Michael Ciminella, Judd brought up both daughters as a single parent, first attending nursing school at California’s College of Marin while living in nearby Lagunitas, California, and later beginning a successful singing career with daughter Wynonna.

In 1991, after selling more than 20 million albums and videos in seven years and at the pinnacle of their career, the Judds came to an abrupt end when Naomi Judd was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. The band ended on a high note: their Farewell Tour was the top grossing act, and their farewell concert the most successful musical event in cable pay-per-view history. In 1991, Judd created the Naomi Judd Education and Research Fund to raise awareness of Hepatitis C, and used the strength of her experiences as spokes-model for the American Liver Foundation.

In 1993, she received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.

She continued to act occasionally (one of her first acting jobs was a small role in More American Graffiti in 1979). In 1999, she starred as Lily Waite alongside Andy Griffith and Gerald McRaney in the film A Holiday Romance.

In 1999, The Judds reunited for a New Year’s Eve concert in Phoenix at the America West Arena, with Ashley as the MC. In 2000, the Judds reunited again for their “Power to Change” tour, performing to over 300,000 people on thirty dates. The duo was nominated as the Academy of Country Music’s top vocal duo of the year in 2001. From 2003 to 2004, Judd also served as one of the judges of the revamped version of Star Search hosted by Arsenio Hall.

In 2005, Judd began Naomi’s New Morning, a talk show on Sunday mornings on the Hallmark Channel. The show lasted two seasons. She is also the author of several self-help books, including Naomi’s Guide to Aging Gratefully: Facts, Myths, and Good News for Boomers (2007).

In 2008, Judd joined a new television reality-competition series Can You Duet, as a judge and mentor. The show, by the producers of American Idol, aired on Country Music Television.

In 2011, Judd starred alongside actress Laura Prepon in the Lifetime television movie The Killing Game.

In 2014, she starred as “Honey” in An Evergreen Christmas.

Judd competed with her husband in the first season of the Fox Broadcasting reality cooking series My Kitchen Rules.

Judd’s second marriage was on May 6, 1989, to Larry Strickland of the Palmetto State Quartet.

After her last tour, Judd developed depression, anxiety, panic attacks, edema, baldness, tremors and suicidal thoughts. She died in the Nashville, Tennessee, area on April 30, 2022, at the age of 76. Her daughters tweeted, in part, “Today we sisters experienced a tragedy. We lost our beautiful mother to the disease of mental illness.”