- Della Beatrice Howard Robinson is the ex-wife.
- Her hometown was a cotton and oil country.
- Every day, she had to walk sixteen miles.
- She shared a one-bedroom frame house.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson is the ex-wife of the late Ray Charles Robinson, Sr., an American singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer. The couple had been married for 22 years and had three children.
Numerous people close to Charles believe that of the many women he had affairs with, Howard was the one he truly loved and wanted to be with forever.
Della Beatrice, too, has an interesting narrative to tell, ranging from failed relationships to how she became Ms. Robinson.
She went from being a poor kid in a segregated tiny village to living in an opulent environment that not even white people could afford at the time.
Before either of them was thirty, she and her ex-husband lived a lifestyle that most Americans could only dream of. Read about Della Beatrice’s incredible journey, including her childhood, personal life, life after divorcing her famous husband, and much more.
Table of Contents
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson was born in a rural Texas town
Ray Charles’ wife, Della Beatrice Antwine, was born two years before her husband.
Ray Charles Jr. states in his book, You Don’t Know Me: Reflections Of My Father, that the fact that she was older than her ex-husband irritated her throughout her life.
Her ancestors came from Richmond, Texas, which is about fifteen miles southwest of Houston.
Della was born in a town of only 1,500 inhabitants.
Her hometown was a cotton and oil country, so it wasn’t as hard-struck as the rest of the country during the Great Depression.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson was born two years before Ray Charles, her ex-husband.
Her ancestors came from Richmond, Texas, which is about fifteen miles southwest of Houston.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson (second from left) was born and raised in Richmond, Texas.
After the Civil War, Richmond became a haven for emancipated slaves.
The train tracks that ran through the center of town, however, had become a symbol of racial divide by the time Charles’ ex-wife was born.
Howard’s mother and two aunts came to Houston when she was a child and worked as live-in housekeepers.
Della attended a black school in Richmond.
Every day, she had to walk sixteen miles.
Robinson went to Richmond’s school until he was in fourth grade.
She then relocated to Houston.
Howard’s family owned a large amount of land for segregated people
Robinson’s maternal family owned approximately eighty acres of land, which was shared among the several homes.
She shared a one-bedroom frame house with her grandmother Mama Lee and uncle George on ten acres of farmland.
They used to grow cotton, corn, peanuts, and potatoes, as well as maintain a truck garden for veggies.
Beatrice’s family also grew fruit trees, wild blackberries, and dewberries.
They’d make cobblers and pies out of the fruit and berries.
They had horses to move the wagons as well as cows for milk.
Her family didn’t need to buy meat because they had plenty of hogs, chickens, ducks, and geese.
Della learned from her parents that food should not be thrown away.
They were devout Christians who had built a little church called Zion Watchtower on their property.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s Parents Didn’t Marry
Her parents, ironically, never married.
And Della never found out why, because it was never mentioned in her presence.
In fact, her father was absent while she was a child, which disturbed her.
He had remarried and was now residing in Houston.
She knew who he was and knew his name, but the father and daughter never met while the latter was a child.
She then moved to Houston with her mother when she was ten years old, leaving Richmond and her grandma behind. However, the relocation was difficult.
Della frequently fought with her mother
She had a running feud with her mother from the start.
She disliked her mother’s late evenings and after-work parties because she was used to a peaceful life with her grandmother.
Della resented it, even more, when her mother forced her to look after her new baby brother, James.
Robinson said one day that she was moving out on her own.
But she quickly regretted her decision.
She subsequently went to live with her cousin Robert Lee.
Della acknowledges that leaving home at such a young age was one of the worst decisions she ever made.
She survived largely by “lying” after leaving her mother, explaining that nobody asked for a birth certificate back then, and she was tall enough to pass for eighteen.
She obtained a Social Security card and a health card and began working as a waitress.
Her secondary employment was singing in a gospel choir.
As a result, she moved in with Ella Dooley, an older woman in her group.
She also joined Cecil Shaw’s gospel ensemble at the age of 16.
She had just finished high school.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Singing Gospel
She began singing on the radio and at concerts soon after joining Cecil Shaw’s gospel squad.
Once she and her fellow colleagues were under contract, they moved on to performance venues and bigger churches.
Soon there was a recording contract; some of the creations survived to become CDs and are still accessible. Della’s face emerged on the covers, beaming into the camera.
By the time she was out of her teens, Robinson was on her way to a flourishing gospel career.
How Howard Came To Know Ray Charles?
Howard was in her mid-20s and still a gospel singer.
Charles, too was in the early stages of his own career, playing the Jim Crow circuit.
He liked listening to the radio when he was on the road.
One day, when passing through Texas, the chance to hear the Cecil Shaw singers on the broadcast.
The song was “Pray On, My Child,” and the lead was sung by none other than Della Beatrice Howard.
He found her voice was very moving and had made up his mind to meet her.
When Della Beatrice Howard Robinson First Met Her Husband, Ray Charles
Author, Janet Hubbard Brown retells the first time Beatrice met her future husband, Charles in the book, Ray Charles.
Brown recalls when the What I’d Say singer met Della, she was a fat woman around his age who had a brilliant face and cheery personality.
The writer further narrates it was the time when she used to sing with the Cecil Shaw Singers.
And while in Houston she had heard the Grammy Hall Of Fame was a womanizer and a drug addict.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson was a singer of the Cecil Shaw gospel.
She is the ex-wife of Ray Charles.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson married Ray Charles in 1955.
Together they had three children.
Before Ray, Della was in a marital relationship twice.
The Genius loved gospel singing and the Cecil Shaw Singers was one of his favorite groups.
And on the other hand, Della had known him as unpleasant at times, and extremely self-centered.
Before meeting Brother Ray, she had this image of him as a womanizer and a man who barely loved a girl.
She, nonetheless, offered to introduce him to the Cecil Shaw Singers.
Charles found Howard’s down-to-earth qualities instantly impressive.
Not long after their first meeting, the soul music genre pioneer went back on the road.
He, however, called her often and wrote love letters to her on a portable typewriter.
He proposed she move to Dallas with him, so they could start fresh.
The Georgia-born singer thought Houston was too humid and more racist than Dallas.
Ray Charles Stalked His Ex-Wife, Della Beatrice Howard Robinson
When she left the hotel after her meeting with Ray, Della never expected to see him again.
But she found it baffling when she kept running into him on the road.
Both of them were touring with their groups, yet every time she turned around, he was there.
It was only much later that Howard discovered the frequent meetings were not a coincidence.
The Albany native had made a secret agreement with Cecil to keep tabs on his ex-wife, so he always knew what city she was going to next.
Though at the time she was married to her second husband (more down below) (more down below).
But she soon left him and went to New York where she stayed at Hotel Theresa.
Super-coincidently, there she would again meet Charles.
Howard Struggled With New York’s Cold Right Before Starting A Relationship With Her Ex-Husband, Ray Charles
She moved to New York in the winter fleeing her abusive second marriage.
She had no clothes and little money.
The mother of Ray Charles Jr. was barely making the rent money and was in constant fear of eviction.
Eventually, Charles came to her rescue and paid her week’s rent without her knowledge.
Beatrice then hesitantly moved to Dallas on Ray’s request. After that, they fell in love.
Della And Charles Married In A Junky Room
Della Howard then 26 and Ray Charles were married in Dallas in 1955.
They had their wedding in a back room filled with junk and a woman they had never met read them their vows.
The first few years went okay even though Charles hadn’t become a huge name and was struggling financially as well.
The former couple had their first child, a son in May 1955; they named him Ray Charles Robinson Jr.
They lived with their first son in Myrtle Street, Dallas, Texas.
Over the course of the next few years, they welcomed two more sons, David Robinson, and Robert Robinson.
However, as much as Charles claimed that he wanted a home life and a family, his life on the road, with women and drugs, made things worse.
He in any case somehow managed to divide his life into two compartments, the family man and the road musician.
And he made sure that one did not bump up against the other.
The Polar Music Prize winner husband of Della continued touring, writing songs, and checking in on his family.
He was recording an average of three singles each year.
In the meantime, Robinson gave birth to another son, and Charles moved the family to Los Angeles.
What Led Howard To Divorce Ray?
Charles’ appetite for sex continued when he was on the road and Della in home.
He at the time had an infamous affair with Mary Ann Fisher.
Within two years of his marriage to Robinson, Ray was also seeing two other women, Margie Hendricks and Mae Mosely Lyles.
The gospel singer’s wife of Charles knew about his extramarital affairs yet she decided to stick with him anyway partly because of her faith.
In 1976, the mother of Ray’s three children finally filed for divorce though the details were kept out of the press.
Robinson was then living with her son, Charles Jr., and his girlfriend.
By the year 1983, Della and her ex-husband, Charles were on better terms.
The Jazz icon, however, wasn’t doing so well in terms of career and health.
He had just got rid of “abnormally patent Eustachian tubes.”
The treatment almost killed him, but he survived thanks to the antibiotics.
Additionally, he had the worst tour in band members’ memory, in 1983.
During his time at the hospital, when he was put in rehabilitation, Della would visit Charles and bring some food.
Howard’s former husband died on June 10, 2004, due to complications resulting from liver failure.
Before Ray Charles, Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Was Married Twice
Both Charles and Della had been married and divorced before meeting each other; the latter twice.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s ex-husband, Ray Charles was a singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer.
The gospel songstress’s romantic history was equally dismal as her Grammy Hall Of Fame ex-husband.
In the early fifties, when Della was twenty, she longed for a home of her own and children.
So she married a tall, handsome minister’s son after meeting him at a church service one night.
Although his name was never mentioned, he has been described as someone who was six feet four, with skin-like ebony and thick, curly black hair.
They married and moved to a house in the country.
For a few weeks, it was good.
But after that, unfortunately, Della’s newfound happiness lasted for what she refers to as a hot five minutes.
This good Christian man started to abuse her physically whenever he was unhappy with her.
So Robinson eventually divorced him and went home to Houston.
Another Failed Marriage
Beatrice once again jumped into a second hasty marriage with another tall, handsome churchgoer.
She was twenty-four years old by then and was beginning to fear that she would never have a child.
From the outside, her second husband seemed ideal.
But this marriage failed even faster than the first one; her husband no 2 was more violent than the first.
The Richmond native was frightened of him, too frightened to return home when the group’s next tour was winding to a close.
So one day, instead, of returning to him she left the tour on an impulse and ran away to New York City.
It was winter and she had no job, no prospects, and no winter clothes.
Also, read Laurens Van Leeuwen: Who Is Laurens?
Where Is Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Now?
When reported in 2010, she was living in Riverside County with stable health.
It, however, is unclear if Ray’s ex-spouse married after her separation from the singer of Georgia On My Mind.
In any case, she is reported to be very much alive and kicking.