Fairbanks was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis in 1997 and acute Leukemia in mid-2001. She’s interred in the ground at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, California. Her grave is right at the beginning of the bridge to the Clark Mausoleum.
Mabel Fairbanks was a figure skater and coach. In 1997, she became the 1st African American inducted into the US Figure Skating Hall of Fame. She was inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in October 2001.
HER CAREER: Fairbanks began figure skating around 1925. After observing children at the Central Park ice rink, Fairbanks bought herself used skates, which were two sizes too big, and went to join them.[ She said, “Blacks didn’t skate there. But it was a public place, so I just carried on.” She later practiced on a 6ft by 6ft rink constructed by her uncle in her room. She gained further inspiration after seeing Sonja Henie in the 1936 film One in a Million.
In the 1930s, Fairbanks, due to her race, was denied access to the local rink by the cashier but she kept returning until the manager admitted her.
Maribel Vinson Owen and Howard Nicholson provided her with technical advice. Fairbanks was not allowed to compete in the national qualifying event for the Olympics or any competition.
Fairbanks performed in shows in New York until the 1940s. After relocating to Los Angeles, she toured internationally, skating with Ice Capades in Mexico and later with Ice Follies
Fairbanks coached singles and pairs, including Tiffany Chin, Billy Chapel, Scott Hamilton, Kristi Yamaguchi / Rudy Galindo, Tai Babilonia / Randy Gardner, Leslie Robinson, Michelle McCladdie, Richard Ewell, Debbi Thomas, Atoy Wilson, and Jean Yuna. She also taught skating to the children of many celebrities.