Who Is Della Beatrice Howard Robinson? Her Career, Marriage, Children, Net Worth

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Who Is Della Beatrice Howard Robinson? Her Career, Marriage, Children, Net Worth

Della Beatrice Howard Robinson is the ex-wife of the late American singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer, Ray Charles Robinson, Sr. The couple were married for 22 years with three children.

Of the many women Charles had an affair with, many people close to the singer consider that Howard was the one he truly loved and with whom he wanted to be forever.

Della Beatrice too has quite a story to tell; from her failed relationships to how she became Ms. Robinson. She began life as a poor girl from a segregated small-town to living in an affluent society that not even then white people could have afforded.

Together with her former husband, she enjoyed a lifestyle that most Americans only dream of before either of them was thirty years old. Read the extraordinary journey of Della Beatrice; her childhood, her personal life, her life after divorcing her famous husband, and much more.

Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Was Born In A Small Town In Texas 

Della Beatrice Antwine was born two years before her husband, Ray Charles. Her son Ray Charles Jr in his book, You Don’t Know Me: Reflections Of My Father, Ray Charles writes the fact that she was older than her ex-husband annoyed her throughout her life.

Her family was from Richmond, Texas, a town fifteen miles southwest of Houston. When Della was born the town had merely 1,500 people. Her hometown was a cotton and oil country, and it wasn’t hit as hard as most of the country during the Depression.

Della Beatrice Howard Robinson was born two years before her ex-husband, Ray Charles. Her family was from Richmond, Texas, a town fifteen miles southwest of Houston.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson (second from left) grew up in Richmond Texas. She spent her childhood with her maternal grandmother and her uncle. Source: Ray Charles Biography

Richmond had been a refuge for emancipated slaves after the Civil War. However, by the time Charles’ ex-wife was born, the train tracks running 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 live-in housekeepers.

Della studied at a colored school in Richmond. She had to walk sixteen miles each day. Robinson attended Richmond’s school until the fourth grade. After that, she moved to Houston.

Howard’s Family Had Lots Of Lands For A Segregated People

Robinson’s maternal family was the owner of about eighty acres of land, divided among the various households. She lived in a one-bedroom frame house on ten acres of farmland with her grandmother Mama Lee and her uncle George. They used to raise cotton, corn, peanuts, and potatoes and kept a truck garden for vegetables.

Additionally, Beatrice’s family cultivated fruit trees and wild blackberries, and dewberries. They would turn the fruit and berries into cobblers and pies. They also had horses to pull the wagons and cows for milk. Her family didn’t need to buy meat as there were enough hogs and chickens, ducks and geese.

Della learned from her parents that food ought not to be wasted. They were very religious and had also built a small church called Zion Watchtower on the family property.

Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s Parents Were Not Married

Ironically, her parents never tied the knot. And Della never knew why, for it was never spoken of in her presence. In fact, her father wasn’t around when she was young and it bothered her. He had married another woman and was living in Houston. She knew who he was, and she carried his name, but the father and the daughter never met each other when the latter was small.

Then when she was ten years old, she left Richmond and her grandmother and went to live with her mother in Houston. The move though was a struggle.

Della Often Fought With Her Mother 

She fought with her mother from the beginning. Accustomed to a quieter life with her grandma, she disapproved of her mother’s late nights and partying after work.

Later, when Della’s mother handled her to look after her new baby brother, James, she hated it more. One day Robinson announced that she was moving out on her own. But, she soon regretted the decision. She then moved in with her cousin Robert Lee. To this day Della admits leaving home so young was one of the worst mistakes of her life.

After leaving her mother, she survived mostly through “Lying.” She explained, in those days nobody asked for a birth certificate, and she was so tall that she could pass for eighteen. Henceforth, she got a Social Security card and a health card and went to work waiting tables.

Her second job was singing with a gospel group. Thanks to that she moved in with Ella Dooley, one of the older women in her group. And at 16, she joined Cecil Shaw’s gospel group. She had just graduated from high school

Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Was A Gospel Singer

Not long after joining Cecil Shaw’s gospel squad, she began singing on the radio and in concerts. Once she and her other members were under contract, they moved on to concert halls and bigger churches. Soon there was 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. By the time she was out of her teens, Robinson was on her way to a successful 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, touring the Jim Crow circuit. He liked listening to the radio when he was on the road. One day, when traveling through Texas, he happened to hear the Cecil Shaw singers on air. The song was “Pray On, My Child,” and the lead was sung by none other than Della Beatrice Howard. He found her voice was deeply moving and had made 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 reveals when What I’d Say singer met Della, she was a plump woman around his age who had a radiant smile and cheerful disposition. 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). 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 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 the 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 wife of Charles knew about his extramarital affairs yet she decided to stick with him anyway partly because of her faith.

The Divorce

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 had the worst tour in band members’ memory, 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. He is known for songs like What’d I Say, Georgia on My Mind, Hit the Road Jack. Source: Instagram/Getty

The gospel songstress 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 she 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.

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.

Some Other Facts About Della Beatrice Howard Robinson:

  • She didn’t find Ray Charles impressive during their first meeting.
  • Della loves high heels.
  • Charles knew Della was pregnant with their son earlier than Della herself. In fact, she didn’t know she had been expecting for three months.
  • She didn’t want her child to be named after Ray Charles.
  • Della knew about her ex-husband’s real age on the day of their marriage.
  • She taught Ray Charles to sign and write his name.
  • Howard encouraged Ray to sing with his own voice.
  • Actor, Jamie Foxx played received his first Oscar for Best Actor in 2005 portraying Della’s husband in the 2004 film, Ray. In the movie, Kerry Washington played the character of Howard Robinson.
  • Her former husband, Charles fathered a total of 12 children with ten different women, including Howard.