Vivian Liberto is a legendary figure and the author of I Walked The Line who was best known as the first wife of Johnny Cash (1932-2003), one of the best-selling country music artists of all time.
Liberto was a mother of four and a homemaker who remained behind the scene from her ex-husband’s fame back in the 1950s. Her first and only book, I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny, gave an insight into the sweet, bitter and unforgettable memories of her marital journey with the music icon.
The celebrity was married to Dick Distin, a Ventura Police Officer, from 1968 to the time of her death on May 24, 2005 (age 71), shortly after her manuscript was completed. Her book is a retort to the Oscar-winning 2005 film Walk the Line, which casts Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon.
She is described as the gracious woman behind the inspiration of the 1958 hit song I Walk the Line, here are few details about her and marriage with ex-husband Johnny Cash.
Vivian Liberto Biography, Race and Ethnicity
Vivian Dorraine Liberto was born on April 23, 1934, in San Antonio, Texas, United States, and raised in a Roman Catholic family.
The subject of her race and ethnicity has been something of controversy since her marriage to her famous ex-husband Johnny Cash. Although Vivian Liberto did identify as Italian-American, a 1950s newspaper headline made reference to her ethnicity as black, which made her and Cash a target to a white supremacist group who said the money from Cash’s hit music supplied him “with drugs and black women.”
They became a subject of a hate campaign from her husband’s Southern fans after a photograph of both of them walking down the courthouse steps made the newspaper headlines. Cash had just got off with a deferred sentence after pleading guilty to drug possession and Vivian recalled in her book, that she and “Johnny received death threats, and an already shameful situation was made infinitely worse.”
Despite all speculations based on pictures, Liberto’s parents, as well as her children have refuted claims that she was black.
Vivian Liberto is the only known daughter of Irene Robinson Liberto (1913–1979) and Thomas Peter Liberto (1905–1971). She also has an older brother named Raymond Alvin Liberto (1932–2008).
Marriage with Johnny Cash and Their Kids
At age 17, Liberto met Cash on July 18, 1951, at a roller-skating rink in San Antonio when he asked her for a skate near closing time. They dated for three weeks before Cash was sent to Germany by the Air Force. All the while they maintained a distant relationship by exchanging more than 10,000 pages of love letters.
They later got married at her hometown San Antonio, Texas on August 7, 1954, more than a month after he returned from Air Force duty in Europe. Liberto and Cash settled in Memphis, Tennesse where he worked as a home appliance salesman and also pursued his musical career.
Later on, they moved to California in 1958, bought an old house belonging to Johnny Carson at Hayvenhurst Avenue in Encino. At the time, Cash was fast becoming famous in the music industry.
Shortly after the birth of their fourth child in 1961, the couple sort more privacy at a 12 acres property in Casitas Springs, Calif. where they resided until their divorce.
It was Vivian Liberto who filed for divorce in 1966, following Cash’s drug abuse and infidelity with country singer June Carter. While she remarried officer Dick Distin in 1968 and retired to a quiet life in Ventura, Cash got married to Carter the same year.
Her silence over the years after separation from her ex-husband over drugs and June Carter was detailed in her book released in 2005. She wrote that losing him was a “degrading, horrible experience,” adding that she should have been more relentless at saving her marriage “as June was relentless at destroying it.” In her words, as written in the book, she would have given anything to hear Johnny say he was sorry.
Vivian Liberto and Johnny Cash had fours kids together in their thirteen years of marriage from August 7, 1954, to 1967. Her children are Rosanne Cash whom she had on May 24, 1955; Kathy Cash (April 16, 1956); Cindy Cash (July 29, 1959); and Tara Cash (August 24, 1961).
There hasn’t been an accurate report on Vivian Liberto’s net worth but reports on her lifestyle said she always had food, flowers, and friends in her house. Her first daughter Rosanne said Liberto enjoyed a breathtaking amount of loyalty and respect mostly for her hospitable and friendly personality.
Liberto died on Tuesday, May 24, 2005, at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura surrounded by so many close relatives – her second husband, daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren, few dear friends, and her parish priest.
She died of complications from surgery for lung cancer and her memorial Mass was held at 2 p.m. on May 28, 2005, at Sacred Heart Church, 10800 Henderson Road, Ventura.