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Shirley Temple Black

Headshot of Shirley Temple Black during her ambassador years.
Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration
Entertainment & Public Service

(1928 – 2014)

California Connection

  • Los Angeles area native and lifelong California resident


Biography current as of induction in 2023

Shirley Temple Black was an actress, singer, dancer, businesswoman and public servant. As a child, she was Hollywood’s number one box-office draw. As an adult, she was a distinguished diplomat who served under four U.S. presidents. She remains an enduring icon whose golden ringlets and magnetic personality still charm audiences around the world. 

Temple began her film career at age three in 1932. Two years later, she appeared in “Bright Eyes,” a feature film written especially for her, achieving international fame and earning a special Juvenile Academy Award. Hits such as “The Little Colonel,” “Curly Top” and “Heidi” followed year after year during the 1930s, while merchandise featuring her wholesome image found its way into homes across the nation. Temple’s ability to radiate sheer joy and hope through song, dance, comedy and drama lifted the spirits of her fellow Americans during the depths of the Great Depression. President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed, “as long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.”

With over 40 major motion pictures to her credit, Temple retired from film in 1950 at age 22 and married Charles Black. She concentrated on raising their three young children before returning to acting, eventually starring in 50 primetime television productions.

A lifelong ambassador of goodwill, Temple Black began a diplomatic career in 1969, when she was appointed to represent the United States at the 24th United Nations General Assembly. Over the next two decades, she became the first woman to serve as U.S. ambassador to Ghana, the first woman U.S. Chief of Protocol and the first woman U.S. ambassador to then-Czechoslovakia. She worked energetically to address significant national and international environmental imperatives, notably as U.S. delegate to the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972.

Also that year, her decision to openly share the news of her mastectomy stimulated an unprecedented public discussion of breast cancer and increased awareness of the importance of early detection and treatment. In 1988, she published her bestselling autobiography, “Child Star.”

Temple Black received many awards and honors, including the Kennedy Center Honors and the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award. She served on numerous boards of directors, including those of The Walt Disney Company, Del Monte Foods, Firemen’s Fund Insurance, Bank of California, the Commonwealth Club of California and the National Wildlife Federation.

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