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, Tennesse, 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).
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.