- Della Beatrice Howard Robinson is the ex-wife of the late Ray Charles Robinson, Sr., an American singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer.
- Her family came from Richmond, Texas, which is about fifteen miles southwest of Houston.
- She had a running battle with her mother from the start.
- Howard was in her mid-20s and still a gospel singer.
Table of Contents
Who is Della Beatrice Howard Robinson?
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson is the ex-wife of the late Ray Charles Robinson, Sr., an American singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer. Della Beatrice Howard Robinson and her husband had been married for 22 years and had three children.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson was born in a rural Texas town
Ray Charles’ wife, Della Beatrice Howard Robinson, was born two years before her husband.
Ray Charles Jr. writes 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 family came from Richmond, Texas, which is about fifteen miles southwest of Houston.
Della was born in a town of only 1,500 people.
Her hometown was a cotton and oil country, so it wasn’t as hard hit as the rest of the country during the Great Depression.
Della was born two years before Ray Charles, her ex-husband.
Her family came from Richmond, Texas, which is about fifteen miles southwest of Houston.
Della Beatrice (second from left) was born and raised in Richmond, Texas.
Her maternal grandmother and uncle raised her as a child. Biography of Ray Charles
After the Civil War, Richmond became a haven for emancipated slaves.
The train tracks that ran through the middle of town, however, had become a symbol of racial division by the time Charles’ ex-wife was born.
Howard’s mother and two aunts moved to Houston as children and worked as live-in housekeepers.
Della went to a black school in Richmond.
She had to walk sixteen miles every day.
Robinson attended Richmond’s school until the fourth grade. She later relocated to Houston.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s Family Owned A Lot Of Land For Segregated People
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s maternal family owned about eighty acres of land, which was divided among the various households.
She shared a one-bedroom frame house on ten acres of farmland with her grandmother Mama Lee and uncle George.
They used to grow cotton, corn, peanuts, and potatoes, as well as keep a truck garden for vegetables.
In addition, Beatrice’s family grew fruit trees, wild blackberries, and dewberries.
They would make cobblers and pies out of fruit and berries.
They also had horses to pull the wagons and cows for milk.
Her family didn’t need to buy meat because they had enough hogs, chickens, ducks, and geese.
Della learned from her parents that food should not be wasted.
They were deeply religious and had built a small church called Zion Watchtower on the family property.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s Parents Were Not Married
Ironically, Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s parents never married.
And Della had no idea why, because it was never mentioned in her presence.
Her father was not present when she was young, which bothered her.
He had married another woman and was now living in Houston.
She knew who he was and knew his name, but the father and daughter never met when the latter was young.
When she was ten years old, she left Richmond and her grandmother to live with her mother in Houston.
The move, on the other hand, was difficult.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson was frequently at odds with her mother
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson had a running battle with her mother from the start.
She disliked her mother’s late nights and after-work partying because she was used to a quieter life with her grandmother.
Della hated it even more when her mother took her to look after her new baby brother, James.
Robinson announced one day that she was leaving her boyfriend.
But she quickly regretted her choice.
She then moved in with her cousin Robert Lee.
Della admits that leaving home so young was one of the worst decisions she ever made.
She mostly survived after she left her mother by “lying.”
She explained 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 she began working as a waitress.
Her second job was singing in a gospel choir.
As a result, she moved in with Ella Dooley, one of the older women in her group.
At the age of 16, she joined Cecil Shaw’s gospel group. She had recently graduated from high school.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson was a gospel singer
She began singing on the radio and in concerts not long after joining Cecil Shaw’s gospel squad.
Once she and her bandmates had a contract, they moved on to larger churches and concert halls.
There was soon a recording contract; some of the creations survived to become CDs and are still available.
Della’s face appeared on the covers, smiling into the camera.
Robinson was on her way to a successful gospel career by the time she was out of her teens.
How did Howard meet Ray Charles?
Howard was in her mid-20s and still a gospel singer.
Charles, too, was in the early stages of his career, touring the Jim Crow circuit.
When he was driving, he liked to listen to the radio. While driving through Texas, he happened to hear the Cecil Shaw singers on the radio.
The song was “Pray On, My Child,” and the lead singer was none other than Della Beatrice Howard.
He found her voice deeply moving and resolved to meet her.
When Della Beatrice Howard Robinson First Met Her Husband, Ray Charles
In her book, Ray Charles, author Janet Hubbard Brown retells the first time Beatrice met her future husband, Charles.
Brown reveals that when the What I’d Say singer met Della, she was a plump woman around his age with a radiant smile and cheerful disposition.
The author goes on to say that it was during her time with the Cecil Shaw Singers.
And while in Houston, she had heard that the Grammy Hall Of Famer was a womanizer and a drug addict.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson sang Cecil Shaw’s gospel. Ray Charles’ ex-wife.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson married Ray Charles in 1955. They had three children.
Della was married twice before Ray.
The Cecil Shaw Singers were one of Genius’ favorite gospel groups.
Della, on the other hand, had known him to be 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.
Nonetheless, she offered to introduce him to the Cecil Shaw Singers.
Howard’s down-to-earth demeanor impressed Charles right away.
The pioneer of the soul music genre went back on the road not long after their first meeting.
He, on the other hand, called her frequently and wrote love letters to her on a portable typewriter.
He proposed that she move to Dallas with him so that they could start over.
The Georgia-born singer thought Houston was too humid and more racist than Dallas.
Ray Charles stalked his ex-wife, Della Beatrice Howard Robinson
Della never expected to see Ray again after she left the hotel after their meeting.
But she was perplexed when she kept bumping into him on the road.
They were both on tour with their respective bands, but every time she turned around, he was there.
Howard didn’t realize the frequent meetings were not a coincidence until much later.
The Albany native had made a secret agreement with Cecil to keep track of his ex-wife so he always knew where she was going next.
Despite the fact that she was married to her second husband at the time, she soon left him and went to New York, where she stayed at the Hotel Theresa.
She’d run into Charles again.
Howard battled the cold in New York before beginning a relationship with her ex-husband, Ray Charles
She moved to New York in the winter to escape her abusive second marriage.
She had no clothes and very little money.
Ray Charles Jr.’s mother was barely making ends meet and were constantly on the verge of eviction.
Eventually, Charles came to her aid and paid her week’s rent without her knowledge.
Beatrice reluctantly relocated to Dallas at Ray’s request. They then fell in love.
Della and Charles Wed in a Dingy Room
In 1955, Della Howard, then 26, married Ray Charles in Dallas.
They married in a junk-filled back room, and a woman they’d never met read them their vows.
The first few years went well, despite the fact that Charles hadn’t become a household name and was struggling financially.
In May 1955, the former couple welcomed their first child, a son named Ray Charles Robinson Jr. They lived with their first son on Myrtle Street in Dallas, Texas.
Over the next few years, they welcomed two more sons, David Robinson and Robert Robinson.
However, as much as Charles claimed to want a home life and a family, his life on the road, with women and drugs, made things worse.
In any case, he managed to divide his life into two parts: family man and road musician.
And he made sure they didn’t collide.
Della’s husband continued to tour, write songs, and check in on his family.
He released three singles per year on average.
Meanwhile, Robinson gave birth to another son, and Charles relocated the family to Los Angeles.
What caused Howard to divorce Ray?
Charles’ lust for sex persisted while he was on the road and Della was at home.
He was involved in an infamous affair with Mary Ann Fisher at the time.
Ray began seeing two other women, Margie Hendricks and Mae Mosely Lyles, within two years of his marriage to Robinson.
Charles’ gospel singer wife was aware of his extramarital affairs, but she chose to remain with him because of her faith.
Ray’s three children’s mother finally filed for divorce in 1976, but the details were kept private.
Robinson was then living with her son, Charles Jr., and his girlfriend.
Della and her ex-husband, Charles, had reconciled by 1983.
However, the Jazz legend’s career and health were suffering.
He’d just gotten rid of “abnormally patent Eustachian tubes.”
The treatment nearly killed him, but he survived thanks to the antibiotics.
In addition, he had the worst tour in band members’ memories, in 1983.
Della would visit Charles in the hospital and bring him food when he was in rehabilitation.
Howard’s ex-husband died on June 10, 2004, from complications related to liver failure.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Married Twice Before Ray Charles
Charles and Della had both been married and divorced before the meeting; the latter twice.
Ray Charles, Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s ex-husband, was a singer-songwriter, pianist, and composer.
The gospel singer’s romantic history was as bleak as that of her Grammy Hall of Fame ex-husband.
Della yearned for a home of her own and children when she was twenty years old in the early 1950s.
So she married a tall, handsome minister’s son she met at a church service one night.
Although his name was never mentioned, he was described as being six feet four, with ebony skin and thick, curly black hair.
They married and moved to the country. It was good for a few weeks.
Unfortunately, Della’s newfound happiness only lasted a hot five minutes.
When he became dissatisfied with her, this good Christian man began to physically abuse her.
Robinson eventually divorced him and returned to Houston.
Another Failed Marriage
Beatrice rushed into a second hurried marriage with another tall, attractive churchgoer.
She was twenty-four years old at the time and was beginning to worry that she would never have a child.
From the outside, her second husband appeared ideal.
But this marriage failed even faster than the first; her second husband was even more violent than the first.
She was terrified of him, too terrified to return home when the group’s next tour came to an end.
So, instead of returning to him, she abandoned the tour on the spur of the moment and fled to New York City.
It was winter, and she had no job, no prospects, and no winter clothes.
Where Is Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Now?
In 2010, she was reported to be living in Riverside County and in good health.
It’s unclear whether Ray’s ex-wife married after her divorce from Georgia On My Mind’s singer.
In any case, she is said to be very much alive and kicking.