Vivian Liberto was the first wife of the legendary American country singer, Johnny Cash. She was a devoted mother and homemaker who preferred to stay away from the limelight throughout her life, specifically during the time she was married to her famous husband. A privacy seeker, Liberto was always dedicated towards her family and the growth and nourishment of her children. During her last years, she co-authored her autobiography called, ‘I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny’, which details the pressures that come along with fame, calling it an antidote to the celebrity culture. The posthumously published memoir was the only book written by Liberto, which essentially described her 13-year long marriage and bittersweet memories with Cash.
Unlike Johnny Cash’s second wife, June Carter, who was at the forefront of stardom, Vivian Liberto was a homemaker who focused on looking after her children and household while her first husband Johnny Cash concentrated on his booming music career in the 1950’s. In an attempt to change the world’s perception about her relationship and clarify her position, she wrote her 2007 memoir, ‘I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny’. The autobiography, which she co-authored with Anne Sharpsteen, entails a vivid description of her courtship with Cash, her early marriage days as well as the hardships she faced a few years prior to her divorce. In fact, the title of Vivian Liberto’s book proved to be a reminder to his fans that the 1956 hit song, ‘I Walk the Line,’ which was the singer’s fidelity pledge to his wife was effectively broken.
The gracious and humble Liberto was always surrounded by friends and family who she was highly attached to throughout her lifetime. It was only after the release of 2005 Oscar winning film, ‘Walk the Line,’ based on Johnny Cash’s two autobiographies, Liberto decided to tell her side of the story by writing an autobiography. Despite all her adversities, the self-sufficient woman was always amicable towards Cash who divorced her to marry June Carter. However, Liberto never behaved like a shattered wife and committed herself to contributing towards the community. She was a three-term president of the Garden Club of San Buenaventura apart from volunteering for the county hospital and a home for unwed mothers in Los Angeles, among other charities.
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Family & Personal Life
Vivian Liberto was born on April 23, 1934 in San Antonio Texas, U.S.A. An Italian-American by origin, she was the only daughter of Irene Robinson Liberto and Thomas Peter Liberto. She and her elder brother Raymond Alvin Liberto were raised in a Roman Catholic household. Liberto got married to the 20th century music icon, Johnny Cash, who she met at a skating tournament in San Antonia before he was sent to Germany by the U.S. Air Force. Following their three-week long courtship, the couple continued their relationship by writing thousands of letters to each other before reuniting and committing to marriage. The letters eventually formed the crux of Vivian Liberto’s autobiography. Liberto filed for divorce due to Cash’s increasing drug abuse problem and infidelity. After being granted divorce in 1966, Liberto married a police office, Dick Distin, and spent a life of retirement in Ventura. She died due to a surgical complication for lung cancer on May 24, 2005 in Ventura, California. Liberto is survived by her husband, four daughters and grandchildren.
A rare photo of Cash and Liberto was published by the ‘Associated Press,’ raising speculations that Liberto could have been black. Liberto had rarely been photographed before that. Following the publication of their photograph, many newspapers like ‘The ThunderBolt’ and The National States Rights Party’s newspaper carried racist rhetorical stories and photographs of the couple, igniting the fire. This led to a major controversy, harassment and death threats to the singer apart from a question mark on Liberto’s racial identity.