Vivian Liberto is a legendary figure and author of I Walked The Line, better known as the first wife of Johnny Cash (1932-2003), one of the best-selling country music artists of all time. Liberto was a mother of four children and a housewife who remained in the background of her ex-husband’s fame in the 1950s. Her first and only book I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny gave an insight into the sweet bitter and unforgettable memories of her marital journey with the music icon.
The celebrity was married to Dick Distin a Ventura police officer from 1968 until his death on May 24, 2005 (71 years old) shortly after the end of her manuscript. Her book is a replica of the 2005 Oscar-winning film I Walk the Line featuring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon.
She is described as the graceful woman behind the inspiration for the 1958 hit song I Walk the Line here are some details about her and her marriage to her ex-husband Johnny Cash.
Vivian Liberto Biography, Race and Ethnicity
Vivian Dorraine Liberto was born on April 23, 1934, in San Antonio Texas USA, and grew up in a Roman Catholic family. The subject of her race and ethnicity has been controversial since her marriage to her famous ex-husband Johnny Cash. Although Vivian Liberto identified herself as Italian-American a 1950s newspaper headline referred to her black ethnic origin making her and Cash a target for a white supremacist group who said that the money from Cash’s successful music provided him with “drugs and black women”.
They were the subject of a hate campaign by her husband’s southern supporters after a picture of them walking down the steps of the courthouse made the headlines. Cash had just received a deferred sentence after pleading guilty to drug possession and Vivian recalled in her book that she and “Johnny received death threats and an already shameful situation has worsened forever”. Despite all the speculation based on photos, Liberto’s parents as well as her children refuted claims that she was black.
Vivian Liberto is the only known daughter of Thomas Peter Liberto (1905-1971) and Irene Robinson Liberto (1913-1979). She also has an older brother Raymond Alvin Liberto (1932-2008).
Marriage with Johnny Cash and Their Kids
At 17 Liberto met Cash on July 18, 1951, on a roller rink in San Antonio when he asked him for a roller skate at closing time. They dated for three weeks before Cash was sent to Germany by the Air Force. During this time they maintained a distant relationship by exchanging more than 10,000 pages of love letters.
They were later married in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas, on August 7, 1954, more than a month after his return from the European air force. Liberto and Cash moved to Memphis Tennessee where he worked as a household appliance salesman and also pursued his musical career.
Later they moved to California in 1958, buying an old house owned by Johnny Carson on Hayvenhurst Avenue in Encino. At the time Cash was quickly becoming famous in the music industry. Shortly after the birth of their fourth child in 1961, the couple regained their privacy on a 12-acre property in Casitas Springs, California where they lived until their divorce.
It was Vivian Liberto who filed for divorce in 1966 following Cash’s drug abuse and infidelity with country singer June Carter. As she married Officer Dick Distin in 1968 and retired to a quiet life in Ventura Cash married Carter the same year.
Her silence in the years following her separation from her ex-husband due to drugs and June Carter was described in detail in her book published in 2005. She wrote that losing him was a “horrible and degrading experience” adding that she should have been more determined to save her marriage “than June destroyed it”. In her words as written in the book she would have given anything to hear Johnny say he was sorry.
Vivian Liberto and Johnny Cash had four children together during their thirteen years of marriage from August 7, 1954, to 1967. Her children are Rosanne Cash whom she had on May 24, 1955, Kathy Cash (April 16, 1956) Cindy Cash (July 29, 1959), and Tara Cash (August 24, 1961).
The End Of The Line For Their Marriage
In 1965 following Johnny Cash’s drug arrest a newspaper published an image of him with Vivian Liberto which sparked controversy among his fans. Many readers assumed that Liberto was African American when in reality she was Italian American causing many to be taken aback by the photo. This incident highlights the importance of being mindful and accurate when reporting on news stories as small mistakes can have big consequences.
The response to the rumored interracial relationship between Cash and Liberto was so severe that it caused numerous concerts to be canceled and protests in the South. Unfortunately, this backlash also included death threats from the Ku Klux Klan which created an even more frightening atmosphere for those involved.
Liberto had long been suspicious of Cash’s relationship with June Carter due to him spending less time at home and the discovery of expensive gifts. Additionally, she was tipped off by his bandmates and family members about their affair.
“Once June came along she relentlessly — well she wanted Dad and she was going to get him,” said Liberto’s daughter Cindy. “And she did. She made herself very available to where he pursued her back.”
In 1967 Vivian Liberto experienced the shock and pain of divorce when her husband left her for another woman. She described this as a “degrading horrible experience” that was difficult to go through. Despite the support from those close to them especially Liberto’s Catholic family who were particularly affected by it all their divorce was finalized in late 1967.
“She’d say ‘If I only could have traveled with him instead of being here raising four kids things would have been different’” recalled longtime friend Alice Smith. “She said that a lot.”
Vivian Liberto was excommunicated from the Catholic Church due to her divorce and as a result, she was forbidden from taking communion. However, this changed when her famous ex-husband wrote to the archdiocese confessing his mistakes as both a husband and father; upon doing so Liberto was welcomed back into the church with open arms.
Liberto relocated to a new home with her daughters while Johnny Cash secured his own residence near Nashville. She then dedicated herself to various community activities such as volunteering and joining a garden club. Eventually, she tied the knot with Dick Distin an officer of the law.
Vivian Liberto sadly passed away on May 24, 2005, due to the complications of a lung, cancer surgery. This was shortly after she had finished writing her memoirs giving readers an insight into her life.
Vivian Liberto Net Worth
There was no accurate report on Vivian Liberto’s net worth but reports on her lifestyle indicate that she still had food flowers and friends in her house. Her first daughter Rosanne said that Liberto enjoyed breathtaking loyalty and respect, especially for her hospitable and friendly personality.
Liberto died on Tuesday, May 24, 2005, at the Memorial Community Hospital in Ventura surrounded by so many close relatives – her second husband daughters sons-in-law grandchildren a few dear friends, and her priest.
She died of complications of lung cancer surgery and her memorial mass was held at 2:00 p. m. on May 28, 2005, at Sacred Heart Church 10800 Henderson Road Ventura.
Quick Facts About Vivian Liberto
|Date of Birth:||April 23, 1934|
|Age:||85 years old|
|Birth Nation:||United States of America|
|Affair with||Dick Distin|
|Married to||Dick Distin|