Della Beatrice Howard Robinson is the elder ex-wife of the American singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer Ray Charles Robinson. The couple were married for 22 years and had three children.
Of the many women with whom Charles had affairs, many people close to the singer believe that Howard was the one he truly loved and wanted to be with forever.
Della Beatrice has her own story too, from her failed relationship to how she became Mrs. Robinson. She started life as a poor girl from a segregated small town to a life of affluence that even at that time white people could not afford.
With her ex-husband, she enjoyed a lifestyle that most Americans only dreamed of before they were in their thirties. Read Della Beatrice’s extraordinary journey; her childhood, her personal life, life after her divorce from her famous husband, and much more.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Was Born In A Small Town In Texas
Della Beatrice Atkins was born two years before her husband Ray Charles. Her son Ray Charles Jr. writes in his book You Don’t Know Me: Ray Charles that the fact that she was older than her ex-husband annoyed her all her life.
Her family is from Richmond, a town 15 miles southwest of Houston, Texas. When Della was born, the town had a population of only 1,500. Her hometown grew cotton and oil and did not suffer as badly as most of the country during the Depression.
After the Civil War, Richmond was a refuge for emancipated slaves. But by the time Charles’s ex-wife was born, the train tracks that ran through the middle of town were a symbol of racial division. When Howard was young, her mother and two aunts moved to Houston and took jobs as domestic servants.
Della attended a colored school in Richmond. She had to walk sixteen miles every day. Robinson attended school in Richmond until the fourth grade. Then she moved to Houston.
Howard’s Family Had Lots Of Lands For Segregated People
Robinson’s mother’s family owned about eighty acres of land, which was divided among various households. She lived in a one-bedroom frame house on ten acres of farmland with her grandmother, Mamaw Lee, and her uncle, George. They grew cotton, corn, peanuts, and potatoes and kept a truck garden for vegetables.
In addition, Beatrice’s family grew fruit trees, wild blackberries, and sundews. They made pies and tarts from the fruit and berries. They also had horses to pull carts and cows for milk. Her family did not need to buy meat because they had enough pigs and chickens, ducks, and geese.
Della learned from her parents that food should not be wasted. They were very religious and had also built a small church on the family property, called the Watchtower of Zion.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s Parents Were Not Married
Ironically, her parents never married. Della never knew why, because it was never discussed in her presence. In fact, her father was not around when she was little and this worried her. He is married to another woman and lives in Houston. She knew who he was and she carried his name, but father and daughter had never met when the latter was little.
Then, when she was ten, she left Richmond and her grandmother and went to live with her mother in Houston. But the move was difficult.
Della Often Fought With Her Mother
She fought with her mother from the very beginning. Used to a quieter life with her grandmother, she did not accept her mother’s late nights and parties after work.
Later, when Della’s mother made her look after her younger brother James, she hated it even more. One day, Robinson announced that she was moving out on her own. But she soon regretted this decision. Thereafter, She moved in with his cousin, Robert Lee. To this day, Della admits that leaving home at such a young age was one of the biggest mistakes of her life.
After leaving her mother, she survived mainly by “lying”. She explained that in those days nobody asked for a birth certificate and she was tall enough to pass for an octogenarian. So she got a social security card and a health card and went to work as a carpenter.
Her second job was singing in a gospel group. Thanks to this, she moved in with Ella Dooley, one of the oldest women in the group. And at the age of 16, she joined Cecil Shaw’s gospel group. She had just finished high school
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Was A Gospel Singer
Shortly after joining Cecil Shaw’s gospel choir group, she began singing on the radio and in concerts. Once she and the other members were signed, they went to concert halls and larger churches. A recording contract was soon signed; some of these works have survived as CDs and are still available. Della’s face appeared on the covers, smiling for the camera. By the time she was out of her teens, Robinson was already on her way to a successful gospel career.
How Howard Came To Know Ray Charles?
Howard was in her early 20s and still a gospel singer. Charles was also in the early stages of his career, performing at the Jim Crow Concert Hall. On the road, he liked to listen to the radio. One day, while traveling in Texas, he happened to hear the Cecil Shaw singers on the air. The song was “Pray On, My Child”, sung by none other than Della Beatrice Howard. He found her voice deeply moving and decided to meet her.
When Della Beatrice Howard Robinson First Met Her Husband, Ray Charles
In Ray Charles, author Janet Hubbard Brown tells the story of how Beatrice first met her future husband Charles. Brown reveals that when the What I’d Say singer met Della, she was a plump woman about his age with a radiant smile and a cheerful disposition. The writer goes on to say that this was when she was singing with the Cecil Shaw Singers. And while in Houston, she had heard that the Grammy Hall of Fame member was feminine and a drug addict.
Jenius loved gospel singing and the Cecil Shaw Singers were one of his favorite groups. On the other hand, Della had come to know him as sometimes unpleasant and extremely egocentric. Before meeting Brother Ray, she had formed an impression of him as a womanizer and a man who hardly liked any girls. However, she offered to introduce him to the Cecil Shaw singing group.
Charles took an instant liking to Howard’s down-to-earth qualities. Shortly after their first meeting, the pioneer of the soul music genre hit the road again. However, he often called her and wrote love letters on his portable typewriter. He suggested that she move in with him in Dallas so that they could make a fresh start. The Georgia-born singer felt that Houston was too humid and had a more racist climate than Dallas.
Ray Charles Stalked His Ex-Wife, Della Beatrice Howard Robinson
When she left the hotel after meeting Ray, Della did not expect to see him again. But she was embarrassed that she kept running into him on the road. They were both touring with their own groups, but every time she turned around, there he was.
Only much later did Howard discover that these frequent meetings were no coincidence. The Albanian-born musician had secretly agreed with Cecile that he would follow his ex-wife, so he always knew which city she was going to next.
Although at the time she was married to her second husband (more on that below). But she soon left him and went to New York, where she stayed at the Hotel Theresa. Very accidentally, she met Charles there again.
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 an abusive second marriage. She had no clothes and little money. Ray Charles Jr’s mother was barely making rent money and was constantly afraid of eviction.
Eventually, Charles came to her rescue and paid a week’s rent without her knowledge. Beatrice then hesitated to move to Dallas at Ray’s request. Then they fell in love.
Della And Charles Married In A Junky Room
Della Howard, then 26, and Ray Charles married in Dallas in 1955. They got married in a back room full of unnecessary things, and a woman they had never met read them their vows. The first few years went well, although Charles was not a big celebrity and struggled financially. In May 1955, the former couple had their first child, a son, named Ray Charles Robinson Junior. In May 1955 they were living 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, although Charles claimed he wanted a home life and a family, his life on the road, with women and drugs, made things even worse. In any case, he somehow managed to split his life into two parts: family man and road musician. And he made sure that one of them didn’t come into contact with the other.
The Polar Music Prize winner, Della’s husband, continued to gig, write songs and check on his family. He recorded an average of three singles per year. Meanwhile, Robinson had another son and Charles moved the family to Los Angeles.
What Led Howard To Divorce Ray?
Charles’ appetite for sex continued even when he was on the road and Della was at home. At the time, he was having an infamous affair with Mary Anne Fisher. Within two years of his marriage to Robinson, Ray was also seeing two other women, Margie Hendricks and Mae Moseley Lyle.
Charles’s wife, a gospel singer, knew of his extramarital affairs, but she decided to stay with him anyway, partly because of her faith.
In 1976, Ray’s mother of three finally filed for divorce, although details were not disclosed to the press. Robinson was living with her son Charles Junior and his girlfriend at the time.
By 1983, the relationship between Della and her ex-husband Charles had improved. However, the jazz icon was not doing so well, either in terms of her career or her health. He had just got rid of his “insanely patent Eustachian tubes”. The treatment nearly killed him, but he survived thanks to antibiotics. Moreover, he completed the worst tour in the band members’ memory, in 1983.
While he was in the hospital and admitted to a rehabilitation ward, Della visited Charles and brought him food.
Howard’s ex-husband died on 10 June 2004 due to complications from liver failure.
Before Ray Charles, Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Was Married Twice
Both Charles and Della had been married and divorced before they met; Della twice.
The gospel singer’s romantic history was as murky as that of her Grammy Hall of Fame ex-husband. In her early fifties, when Della was in her early twenties, she longed for a home and children of her own. So she married a stately-looking pastor’s son after meeting him one evening at a church service. Although his name was never mentioned, he was described as six feet tall, with ebony skin and thick, curly black hair.
They married and moved to a house in the countryside. Things were fine for a few weeks. But then Della’s new-found happiness, unfortunately, lasted, as she calls it, a hot five minutes. This good Christian man began to physically abuse her whenever he was unhappy with her. So Robinson eventually broke up with him and went home to Houston.
Another Failed Marriage
Beatrice again threw herself into a second hurried marriage with another tall, good-looking churchgoer. She was twenty-four at the time, and she began to fear that she would never have a child.
From the outside, her second husband seemed perfect. But this marriage failed even more quickly than the first; her husband No. 2 was even more violent than the first. She was afraid of him in Richmond, too afraid to return home when the band’s next tour came to an end. Instead of returning to him, she impulsively left the tour one day and fled to New York. It was winter and she had no job, no prospects, and no winter clothes.
Where Is Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Now?
When the news broke in 2010, she was living in Riverside County and was in good health. However, it is not clear whether Rey’s ex-wife has remarried since her divorce from Georgia On My Mind singer. In any case, she is reported to be very much alive and continues to live.
Some Other Facts About Della Beatrice Howard Robinson:
- She was not impressed by Ray Charles when they first met.
- Della loves high heels.
- Charles knew that Della was pregnant with their son before Della herself. In fact, she didn’t know she was pregnant for three months.
- She did not want her baby to be named after Ray Charles.
- Della knew her ex-husband’s true age on the day of their marriage.
- Taught Ray Charles sign language and how to write his name.
- Howard encouraged Ray to sing in his own voice.
- Actor Jamie Foxx won his first Best Actor Oscar in 2005 for his portrayal of Della’s husband in the 2004 film Ray. Kerry Washington played Howard Robinson in the film.
- Her ex-husband Charles fathered a total of 12 children with ten different women, including Howard.
Quick Facts About Della Beatrice Howard Robinson
|Real Name||Della Beatrice Howard Robinson.|
|Age (as of 2020)||91 years.|
|Date of Birth||1929.|
|Height (Tall)||Feet & Inches: 5′ 5″.
Centimeters: 165 cm.
Meters: 1.65 m.
|Weight||Kilograms: 76 Kg.
Pounds: 167.5 lbs.
|Body Measurements||Not Known.|
|Net Worth (approx.)||$15 Million US Dollars.|