Billy Porter Fights Back Tears as He Dedicates Tony Award to Late Mom Cloerinda Jean Johnson Porter-Ford

Billy Porter
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Billy Porter was honored with the Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award on Sunday.

Billy Porter was honored at the 77th annual Tony Awards on Sunday, and the actor was moved to tears as he honored his late mother, Cloerinda Jean Johnson Porter-Ford, in his touching speech.

Porter was presented with the Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award during the Tony Awards: Act One pre-show ceremony, held at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. During his emotional speech, the acclaimed 54-year-old actor got emotional as he dedicated the award to his mom, who died in February at age 79.

"I'd like to dedicate this moment to my mother, Cloerinda Jean Johnson Porter-Ford, who we lost this past February," Porter shared. "She believed in unconditional love and she instilled in my sister and I a purpose and a love greater than ourselves."

"One of her favorite bible verses was Second Timothy, 1:7. 'For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,'" Porter recited. "Turn to your neighbor and tell him fear not! For the change has already happened. God bless y'all."

Billy Porter accepts the Isabelle Stevenson Award at the Tony Awards: Act One event in New York City on June 16, 2024. - Mary Kouw/CBS via Getty Images

The celebrated actor took to Instagram in February to share the unfortunate news of his mother's death, as well as a moving tribute with a slideshow of snapshots featuring his late mom.

"With heavy hearts we announce the passing of our loving mother," Porter and his sister, Mary Martha Ford, wrote in a joint post. "We were right beside her when she took her last breath, wrapped in our arms."

"Mommy lived life to the fullest despite physical limitations pressed upon her. She was the personification of true Christianity and her unconditional love is a template that the world could benefit from employing," they continued. "Her example is what we continue to strive for."

The Emmy-winning Pose star and his sister shared that their family "are heartbroken she is no longer here with us, but find solace that her suffering has ended."

"Her fight was long and hard—she did it with grace and integrity. Mommy will remain forever in our hearts as she continues to guide us from above, as she has done on this Earth," they concluded. "From Labor to Reward…"

During his emotional acceptance speech on Sunday, Porter expressed his deep gratitude for the honor, sharing, "I grew up in a world where they told me that who I was was not worthy of anything. So the fact that I'm standing before you is a miracle."

Porter explained, "I came out as gay in 1985, when I was 16 years old. And as we all know, and many of us in this room experienced, we went straight to the frontlines to fight for our lives. We got up in these streets and spoke truth to power and demanded our healing medications. We got up in these streets and demanded our equal rights -- not just for queer people, but for all human beings, everywhere."

Billy Porter walks the carpet at the 77th Tony Awards in New York City on June 16, 2024. - Kristina Bumphrey/Variety via Getty Images

"As we find ourselves at another crossroads in America, a moment that will decide whether democracy lives or dies, I need to remind you all of what the late John Lewis told me: 'Never give up hope, never give into hate, and go out there and get into some good trouble,'" Porter shared. "Love always wins."

The 2024 Tony Awards, which will be hosted by Ariana DeBose, is airing live from the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, June 16, at 5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on CBS and Paramount+. Check out the complete winners list here.