Rose Swisher: NBA Legend Bill Russell’s First Wife?

Rose Swisher - Today Paper

Born on December 27, 1929, Rose Swisher emerged as a prominent figure in the realm of American modeling and photography. Notably, she played a significant role as the first wife among four of William Russell, the renowned basketball player who etched his name in the annals of the sport. Their paths crossed at the University of San Francisco, where Rose pursued nursing while Russell focused on physical education. Their college years kindled a deep affection, culminating in marriage; however, their union eventually dissolved in 1973.

Rose Swisher Biography

Rose Swisher Age78 years at the time of death
Rose Swisher HusbandBill Russell
Rose Swisher weds Bill RussellDecember 9, 1956

Rose Swisher: Bill Russell’s First Wife

Rose Swisher: Bill Russell's First Wife - Rose Swisher

On December 9, 1956, Rose and Bill Russell exchanged vows, embarking on a marital journey together. During their time together, they welcomed three children into their lives: Jacob Russell, William Russell Jr., and Karen Russell. However, in 1973, Rose initiated divorce proceedings, citing irreconcilable differences as the cause of their separation. She once remarked that without her support, Bill would have faced dire consequences, stating, “There is no way to describe the shape he would be in if it weren’t for me. He’d be dead by now.”

Despite their shared history, the public remains largely unaware of the intricacies of the relationship between NBA legend Bill Russell and Rose. In Bill Russell’s autobiography, “My Life, My Road” (1985), all the details you seek about her will be revealed.

Bill Russell Wife

Bill Russell Wife - Rose Swisher

The personal life of NBA player Bill Russell is undeniably captivating, and the same can be said for his wife. Their journey began on December 9, 1956, coinciding with Bill Russell’s signing with the Boston Celtics. However, their union eventually came to an end, leading to their divorce in 1973.

Rose, an influential figure of the 1950s and 1960s, held the distinction of being one of the first African-American supermodels. Her grace and charm graced the covers of “Ebony” magazine and adorned prestigious fashion runways. Additionally, Rose gained significant renown as the face of Maybelline Cosmetics. Bill and Rose exchanged vows in Cincinnati in 1961 and welcomed two daughters into their lives. One of their daughters, Karen, was born in 1972. Sadly, five years later, the couple went their separate ways.

Originally from Chicago, Rose studied at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and became a social activist in the 1960s. She was one of the students protesting the Vietnam War. Rose fought for social justice throughout her life.

Bill Russell Bio

Bill Russell Bio - Rose Swisher

In the inaugural year when NBA players had the opportunity to negotiate their contracts, Bill Russell emerged as the highest-earning player in the league, amassing a remarkable sum of around $450,000 during the 1961-62 season. His roots can be traced back to West Monroe, Louisiana, where he was born and raised. Coming from humble beginnings, Bill’s parents, Prince Rupert Russell and Julia.

He grew up in a modest environment, spending his early years laboring in the cotton fields of his grandparents’ farm. With only two pairs of pants and two shirts at his disposal for the entire year, Bill resorted to weekly rotation to make them last.

Bill Russell’s Current Spouse and Children

Bill Russell, an American basketball legend, graced the court as a player for the esteemed Boston Celtics for an impressive three decades. His remarkable career spanned from 1956 to 1971, during which he triumphantly secured five NBA championships. Recognizing his indelible contributions to the sport, Bill was honored with the revered number 33 jersey in the esteemed Hall of Fame.

Beside him on this incredible journey is his beloved wife, Connie, and together they are blessed with a beautiful family comprising four sons and two daughters. Throughout his illustrious career, Bill’s children stood steadfastly by his side, offering unwavering support and love. Their devotion and presence in his life have been constant sources of inspiration. Among their children, the eldest holds a special place in the family.

Rose Swisher Marriage Life

On September 11, 2014, Rose Swisher, Bill Russell’s first love and later his wife, passed away, leaving behind cherished memories. Their love story unfolded during their time as college students, where their paths intertwined. Rose and Bill exchanged vows on December 9, 1956, embarking on a journey of enduring marital bliss. Together, they were blessed with a son named Damon, their precious gift.

Reflecting on personal experiences, I too once found myself in a similar situation. It took my husband and me nearly two decades to reunite and rekindle our love. Such journeys can be filled with twists and turns, ultimately leading to profound connections.

Sadly, at the age of 88, Bill Russell, the iconic NBA star, bid farewell to this world. Renowned for his remarkable achievements, he secured an impressive 11 championships throughout his illustrious career.

During a time when interracial marriages were a subject of debate, Bill Russell made a significant choice in 1977. He tied the knot with Dorothy Anstett, a woman whose ethnicity differed from his own. Interracial marriages remained uncommon in the 1960s, despite being legal for four years at that point.

At the time of their marriage, Dorothy was 29 years old, while Russell was 43, marking the beginning of a new chapter in their lives, characterized by love, understanding, and breaking down societal barriers.

The pair decided to split up after three years of cohabitation. Russell wed Marilyn Nault, who would eventually become his third wife, in the year 1996. Despite the fact that she passed away in January 2009, their marriage lasted till her passing. Back then Russell had only recently married his fourth wife, Jeannine Russell, at the time of his death.


Rose Swisher, Bill Russell’s first wife, died at the age of 86. In addition to her son William, she is survived by her daughter Karen Russell, who is married to multimillionaire Dikembe Mutombo.

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