Della Beatrice Howard Robinson is the ex-wife of the late American singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer, Ray Charles Robinson, Sr. The couple was married for 22 years with three children. Of the many women Charles had an affair with, Howard was the one he truly loved and with whom he wanted to be forever.
Read the extraordinary journey of Della Beatrice; her childhood, personal life, and her life after divorcing her famous husband.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Profile Summary
- Nickname: Bea
- Age: 93 Years Old (As of 2022)
- Ethnicity: African-American
- Nationality: American
- Horoscope: Unknown
- Sexual Orientation: Straight
- Religion: Christianity
- Marital Status: Divorced
- Siblings: 1 Brother (James)
- Height: 5ft 5inches/165 cm
- Weight: 168 Pounds (76 KG)
- Net Worth: $15 Million
- Profession: Gospel Singer
- Children: 3 (Robert, Ray Jr., and David)
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Was Born In A Small Town In Texas
Robinson was born in 1928 in the United States of America. Her son Ray Charles Jr. writes in his book, You Don’t Know Me: Reflections Of My Father, Ray Charles that the fact that Della 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.
Howard’s Family Had Lots Of Lands For 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 grow 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 Beatrice Howard Robinson’s Parents Were Not Married
Ironically, her parents never tied the knot. 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.
When she was ten years old, she left Richmond and went to live with her mother in Houston.
Della Didn’t Get Along with Her Mother
Beatrice 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 asked her to look after her 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.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Was A Gospel Singer
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. 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, she 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, on the other hand, was 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 deeply moving which led him to meet her.
When Did Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Meet Ray Charles?
The time Beatrice met her future husband, Charles, she was a plump woman around his age who had a radiant smile and cheerful disposition. As a matter of fact, it was the time when she used to sing with 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. However, he would call her often and write her love letters.
Ray Paid for Howard’s Rent Before He Asked Her to Move In With Him
Della moved to New York in winter fleeing her abusive second marriage. She had no clothes and little money and was barely making the rent money and was in constant fear of eviction. Eventually, Charles came to the 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.
Ray Charles Stalked His Ex-Wife, Della Beatrice Howard Robinson
Della never expected to see Ray again after their first meeting at a hotel. 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 now ex-wife, so he always knew what city she was going to.
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 meet Charles again.
Della And Charles Married In A Junky Room
Della Howard, then 26, and Ray Charles got 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, Ray Charles Robinson Jr. in May 1955 in Myrtle Street, Dallas, Texas. Over the course of the next few years, they welcomed two more sons, David Robinson, and Robert Robinson.
No matter how much 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.
Ray 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.
Della Beatrice Howard Robinson’s Divorce From Ray
In 1976, Della Beatrice filed for divorce from her husband of more than two decades. At the time of the divorce filing, Robinson was living with her son, Charles Jr., and his girlfriend. Their divorce was finalized in 1977.
Despite their failed marriage, Della and her ex-husband, Charles maintained an amicable relationship. Della would even visit Charles and bring some food when he was in the hospital for the treatment of “abnormally patent Eustachian tubes.”
Reason for Their Divorce – Did Ray Cheat on Della?
Even though it wasn’t made public, Della and Ray’s marriage dissolved due to the latter’s infidelity. In fact, it is well known to the public that Ray had had numerous extra-marital relationships. Charles’ appetite for sex continued when he was on the road. He at the time had an infamous affair with Mary Ann Fisher.
Moreover, within two years of his marriage to Robinson, Ray was also seeing two other women, Margie Hendricks, and Mae Mosely Lyles. Della stayed with him even though she knew about her then-husband’s affairs; maybe because her children were small and she didn’t want to deprive her children of their father’s love.
Before Ray Charles, Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Was Married Twice
Della had been married twice before she met her third husband Ray. In fact, she was still married to her second husband at the time she met the late singer.
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 as her husband no. 2 was more violent than the first. The Richmond native was too frightened to return home when the group’s 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.
Her second marriage ended abruptly, and it’s not clear if she legally divorced her second spouse.
Where Is Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Now?
Della lives a private life and according to some online media, she lives in Riverside County with stable health. Besides, it’s not clear who she lives with there as her marital status following her third divorce is not documented by the media.
As of June 2023, she is very much alive and kicking.
From their relationship, the couple is a proud parent of three children.
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.
- Her former husband, Charles fathered a total of 12 children with ten different women, including Howard.