The late American singer-songwriter, pianist, composer, and ex-wife of Ray Charles Robinson, Sr. is Della Beatrice Howard Robinson. The couple has three children over their 22 years of marriage.
Many individuals who were close to the artist believe that Della Beatrice Howard Robinson was the one woman Charles truly loved and wanted to spend the rest of his life with out of all the ladies he had affairs with.
Della Beatrice also has a fascinating tale to share, ranging from her failed relationships to how she got to be known as Ms. Robinson. She moved from a segregated tiny village where she was raised to an affluent culture that even then was out of the reach of white people.
Before either of them was thirty, she and her ex-husband lived a lifestyle that most Americans can only imagine. Read about Della Beatrice’s incredible journey, including her early years, private affairs, life following the divorce of her well-known husband, and much more.
In a Tiny Texas town, Della Beatrice Howard Robinson was Born
Ray Charles’ wife Della Beatrice Antwine was born two years earlier. She was always bothered by the fact that her ex-husband was younger, according to her son Ray Charles Jr. in his book You Don’t Know Me: Reflections Of My Father.
Her roots were in Richmond, Texas, a city located fifteen miles to the southwest of Houston. There were just 1,500 residents in the village when Della was born. Her community was in an oil and cotton-producing region, so the Depression didn’t affect it as severely as it did the rest of the nation.
Slaves who had been freed after the Civil War had sought shelter in Richmond. However, by the time Charles’ ex-wife was born, the town’s central railroad tracks had come to represent racial discrimination. Howard’s mother, two aunts, and all relocated to Houston when Howard was a little child to work as live-in housekeepers.
Della attended a school for people of color in Richmond. Each day, she had to walk sixteen kilometers. Robinson finished the third grade at Richmond’s school. She then relocated to Houston.
Howard’s Family Owned Numerous Properties for a Segregated Population
About 80 acres of land belonged to Robinson’s maternal family, which was shared among the several houses. She shared a one-bedroom frame home with her grandmother Mama Lee and uncle George on ten acres of farmland. In addition to growing vegetables in a truck garden, they previously grew cotton, corn, peanuts, and potatoes.
Beatrice’s family also tended fruit trees, blackberries in the wild, and dewberries. They would make pies and cobblers out of the fruit and berries. They also had cows for milking and horses to move the wagons. The number of hogs, chickens, ducks, and geese meant that her family didn’t need to purchase any meat.
Della’s parents taught her that food shouldn’t be squandered. They had also constructed a modest church called Zion Watchtower on the family’s land since they were deeply devout.
The Parents of Della Beatrice Howard Robinson Were Not Married
Ironically, her parents never got married. Della was never told the reason, as it was never brought up in her presence. She was upset because her father wasn’t there for her when she was younger. He was residing in Houston and had already wed another woman. The father and the daughter were never introduced when the daughter was a little child, even though she knew who he was and bore his name.
Then, when she was eleven years old, she moved to Houston to live with her mother, leaving Richmond and her grandmother behind. However, the transition proved difficult.
Della and Her Mother Frequently Fought
She and her mother have always argued. She disapproved of her mother’s late evenings and after-work parties because she was used to a peaceful life with her grandmother.
She resented it even more later when Della’s mother had to handle her to take care of her new baby brother, James. Robinson announced that she would be living on her own one day. But she quickly came to regret her choice. Following that, she settled in with her cousin Robert Lee. Della still acknowledges that leaving home at such a young age was one of her worst errors.
She mainly made it after her mother’s departure by “lying.” She added that because she was so tall, she could have passed eighteen years old back then when no one asked for a birth certificate. She then obtained her Social Security and health cards and began working as a waitress.
Her secondary occupation was gospel singing. She then moved in with Ella Dooley, one of the more senior ladies in her group, as a result. She also joined Cecil Shaw’s gospel ensemble at the age of 16. She had recently received her high school diploma.
Gospel singer Della Beatrice Howard Robinson
She started singing on the radio and at events soon after joining Cecil Shaw’s gospel group. When she and the other members of her band were given contracts, they relocated to larger churches and concert halls. A recording deal was soon signed, and some of the works survived to become CDs that are still in circulation. On the covers, Della may be seen grinning at the camera. Robinson was well on her way to a lucrative gospel career by the time she was out of her teens.
How Did Howard Meet Ray Charles?
Howard was still a gospel singer and in her mid-20s. Charles was also just starting his career when he began traveling on the Jim Crow circuit. When he was driving, he enjoyed listening to the radio. He happened to hear the Cecil Shaw vocalists playing on the radio one day while passing through Texas. It was Della Beatrice Howard who sang the lead in the song, “Pray On, My Child.” His decision to meet her was influenced by how affecting he thought her voice to be.
When Ray Charles and Della Beatrice Howard Robinson First Connected
In her novel Ray Charles, author Janet Hubbard Brown recounts Beatrice’s first encounter with Charles, the man who would become her husband. According to Brown, Della was a chubby woman around his age with a beautiful grin and an upbeat demeanor when the What I’d Say singer first met her. The author continues by describing the time she used to perform with the Cecil Shaw Singers. Additionally, she had heard while in Houston that the Grammy Hall of Fame was a womanizer and drug user.
The Cecil Shaw Singers were one of The Genius’ favorites since he adored gospel music. On the other side, Della had observed him to occasionally be disagreeable and incredibly self-centered. She had this idea of Brother Ray as a womanizer and a man who scarcely loved a girl before meeting him. Nevertheless, she made the offer to introduce him to the Cecil Shaw Singers.
Howard’s honesty and straightforwardness immediately impressed Charles. The pioneer of the soul music genre was on the road again soon after they first met. However, he frequently called her and used a portable typewriter to compose her love notes. He suggested they both go to Dallas so they could start again. The Georgia-born artist believed Dallas was less racial and less humid than Houston.
Ray Charles Stalked Della Beatrice Howard Robinson, His Ex-wife
Della never anticipated seeing Ray again as she checked out of the hotel following their meeting. But the fact that she kept bumping into him on the street baffled her. Every time she looked around when they were both on tour with their bands, he was waiting for her.
Howard didn’t realize the regular meetings weren’t just a coincidence until much later. The native of Albany had a secret deal with Cecil to follow his ex-wife around so he always knew where she was going.
Even though her second husband at the time was her husband (more down below). But not long after, she moved on from him and went to New York, staying at the Hotel Theresa. Quite coincidentally, she would run into Charles there once more.
Before dating her ex-husband, Ray Charles, Howard struggled with the cold in New York
She left her terrible second marriage in the winter and moved to New York. She was poor and lacked any clothing. Ray Charles Jr.’s mother struggled to pay the rent and lived in constant fear of being kicked out.
In the end, Charles saved her and secretly paid her rent for the week. At Ray’s request, Beatrice then reluctantly relocated to Dallas. They afterward fell in love.