Who Was Bill Russell’s First Wife Rose Swisher?

Rose Swisher is the first wife of Bill Russell, the now-deceased legendary former Boston Celtics center. She was an American model and photographer who lived from December 27, 1936 to September 11, 2014.  Rose Swisher was 78 years old when she died.

While she was married to Russell, Rose Swisher remained in the spotlight but after her marriage to the former NBA star ended she disappeared from the limelight. However, the celebrity ex-wife’s equally late ex-husband went on to marry three more times. Our focus though is on the woman who became the biological mother of Bill Russell’s only three children.

Summary of Rose Swisher’s Biography

  • Full name: Rose Swisher
  • Gender: Female
  • Date of birth: December 27, 1936
  • Date of death: September 11, 2014
  • Rose Swisher’s Age: 78 years old (at the time of death)
  • Ethnicity: African American
  • Nationality: American
  • Sexual Orientation: Straight
  • Religion: Christianity
  • Marital Status: Divorced
  • Rose Swisher’s Ex-Husband: William “Bill” Fenton Russell (deceased, m. 1956, d. 1973)
  • Rose Swisher’s Children: William Fenton Russell Jr. (son, deceased), Jacob H. Russell (son), Karen Russell (daughter)
  • Hair color: Black
  • Eye color: Black
  • Education: University of San Francisco
  • Profession: Model, photographer
  • Famous for: Being Bill Russell’s first wife

Not Much is Known About Rose Swisher’s Early Life

Despite being the first wife of one of the NBA’s most respected figures on and off the court, Rose Swisher kept a relatively low profile. Notwithstanding, Swisher’s age at the time of her death helped us arrive at the almost unassailable fact that she was born sometime between 1935 and 1936.

The exact place of her birth in the United States has yet to be determined but we can confirm that being born in a North American country allowed her to enjoy all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of an American citizen. Rose Swisher’s proclivity toward privacy means that not much is known about other members of her birth family including her parents and any siblings she might have had.

Given that we have yet to uncover details about where she was born, it’s almost impossible to determine where Swisher spent her formative years. Also, knowledge of the level of her formal education is limited to the fact that she also attended the University of San Francisco right around the same time Bill Russell did too. At the end of her time there, she reportedly graduated with a degree in Nursing.

Rose Swisher was Bill Russell’s Wife For Nearly Two Decades

Rose Swisher spent almost a quarter of her existence on earth as Bill Russell’s wife from 1956 to 1973, a period that also represents a little over the length of time the late center spent playing in the NBA.

According to several reliable sources, the late former couple was college sweethearts. Their love story began while they were both studying at the University of San Francisco, Rose as a Nursing major, and Bill as a Physical Education major.

While it’s been confirmed that they met in college, the finer details of the early days of their relationship including, exactly how, where, and when they met, have yet to be revealed. After commencing a romantic relationship, they dated each other exclusively for the rest of their time in college before eventually exchanging marital vows in front of their family and friends on December 9, 1956.

Rose Swisher and Bill Russell Divorced After Becoming Emotionally Distanced From Each Other

Rose Swisher and Bill Russel spent the next seventeen years, after their wedding in 1956, as a married couple, and the length of time they spent being married to each other remains the late NBA star’s longest in the institution of marriage.

However, the late former couple divorced in 1973, around four years after Russell’s playing career had come to an end. In an attempt to delve into the reason for the divorce, it was uncovered that the couple had divorced because they had become emotionally distant from each other.

Russell, though, did right by Swisher by making sure she had all she needed to take care of herself and the children they had as a couple.

Swisher Had Three Children With Bill Russell

The marital union between Rose Swisher and Bill Russell was fraught with several challenges but was blessed with three children, two sons, and a daughter.

The late former couple welcomed their first child together, a son whom they named William Fenton Jr., after his father, on November 2, 1957, almost a year after their wedding. Not much is known about him but several sources confirmed that he passed on in 2016 after losing the battle against cancer.Rose Swisher

Before his death, his childhood fascination with trucks had led him to work as a truck driver with Cox Trucking for several years. On July 6, 1959, around a couple of years, after William Jr. was born, Rose and her then-husband welcomed their second child, another son who was named Jacob H. Russell. Like his late big brother, Jacob keeps a low profile but is reportedly living in Washington State with his wife Sara Mackx Russell.

Swisher had her only daughter Karen Russell on January 20, 1962. Karen is the only child of the late celebrity wife who has had a taste of being in the spotlight, a privilege she has access to due to her work as a blogger, and a legal and political analyst. Her law degree from Harvard Law School has also helped her reach several notable accomplishments throughout her career.

She Lived a Private Life After Divorcing Bill Russell

The former celebrity spouse carried on with her life after her marriage to Bill Russell ended, but it carried on in private as opposed to the very public existence she had when she was Russell’s wife. The end product of that decision to live her life outside the spotlight was that the details of her romantic relationships were never made public again.

Hence it is quite challenging to determine if she ever remarried. In direct contrast to that low-key existence, Swisher, like the rest of the world, went on to witness the eleven-time NBA champion remarry an additional three times, bringing the total of his marriages to four in a lifetime.

His second marriage after Swisher was to 1968 Miss USA Dorothy Ansett in 1977. That union ended after three years in 1980. Marilyn Nault, a former jewelry salesperson, became Bill Russell’s third wife in 1996 but the union ended with her death in 2009 after a battle with cancer.

Russell’s fourth and final wife before his death was Jeannine Fiorito. She was a former pro golfer and remained by his side until his death at his Mercer Island, Washington home on July 31, 2022. He was 88 years old.

Rose Swisher Died in September 2014

On September 11, 2014, the world awoke to the sad news that Rose Swisher had passed on. The low-profile nature of her existence following her divorce from the late NBA star meant that her cause of death was never revealed to the media and the public.

Long before her marriage to Russell, divorce, and subsequent demise, Swisher had allegedly worked as a model and a photographer but not much is known about her career in either field of endeavor.

Hugo Wright
Hugo Wright
Hugo has extensive professional writing experience and has been writing and editing articles on multiple platforms for several years now. Away from work, he is a football addict who loves to catch up on his favourite pastimes.


Featured Today

Fact Check

We strive for fairness and accuracy, if you've found a possible error or something that needs updating, please contact us

Related Stories