Entertainment TV Betty White Once Helped Launch the Career of a Black Tap Dancer by Hiring Him for Her Variety Show In 2017, Betty White reunited with then 83-year-old tap dancer Arthur Duncan, whom she had helped secure his first television job on her variety show The Betty White Show more than six decades prior By Katie Campione Katie Campione Digital News Writer, PEOPLE People Editorial Guidelines Published on December 31, 2021 05:48 PM Share Tweet Pin Email For decades, Betty White used her stardom to uplift others. In 2017, White reunited with then 83-year-old tap dancer Arthur Duncan, whom she had helped secure his first television job on her variety show The Betty White Show more than six decades prior — despite the fact that viewers had complained at the time about the color of his skin. "I was on the show, and they had some letters out of Mississippi and elsewhere that some of the stations would not carry the show if I was permitted to stay on there," Duncan explained during an episode of Steve Harvey's Little Big Shots: Forever Young. "Well, Betty wrote back and said, 'Needless to say, we used Arthur Duncan every opportunity we could.' " That letter helped Duncan keep his television tenure and would launch his career, allowing him to become the first Black regular on a variety show when he was hired on The Lawrence Welk Show. He would stay with the show for 20 years. Betty White, The Golden Girls and Hot in Cleveland Star, Dead at 99 During the Little Big Shots episode, Harvey surprised Duncan by bringing White on the show to catch up with her old friend. After laying eyes on White, the tap dancer joked to Harvey that his life was complete. "I'm ready to go now," he said. Vivian Zink/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty "I hope we have a chance to visit after this is over," Duncan told White, to which she jokingly replied: "Oh, I hope so. You never call. You never ask me out." Duncan also got to perform a tap routine in front of his old friend once again, earning a whooping round of applause from the audience. Hollywood Mourns the Death of Betty White: 'What an Exceptional Life' Duncan also sang White's praises in the 2018 documentary Betty White: First Lady of Television. "I credit Betty White for really getting me started in show business," he said. "People in the South, some of them resented me being on the show and wanted me thrown out. And it was never a question at all." Explaining the controversy, White said: "All through the South there was this whole ruckus, they were going to take the show off the air if we didn't get rid of Arthur because he was Black." "I said, 'I'm sorry, but he stays...Live with it!' " she added. Betty White. getty White died on Friday at age 99, PEOPLE confirmed, just two and a half weeks before she would have celebrated her centennial year. Ahead of her birthday in January, White opened up to PEOPLE about how she was feeling about turning 100 years old. Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free weekly newsletter to get the biggest news of the week delivered to your inbox every Friday. According to White, being "born a cockeyed optimist" was the key to her upbeat nature. "I got it from my mom, and that never changed," she said. "I always find the positive." Of course, the actress also cracked a joke about the secret to her long life, telling PEOPLE: "I try to avoid anything green. I think it's working." "We are deeply saddened by the news of Betty White's passing. We are honored that she recently chose to work with PEOPLE to celebrate her extraordinary life and career," PEOPLE's editor in chief Dan Wakeford said in a statement Friday of White's death.