Was Johnny Cash’s First Wife a Negress?

According to Johnny Cash, you are looking at “the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen,” above. Her name was Vivian Liberto. She became Cash’s first wife.

You know that the late Johnny Cash rose to fame in the mid 1950s, along with several others out of Sun Records, including Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

What may not be known to you is that Arkansas-born Johnny met his first wife right here in San Antonio, Texas 66 years ago. He was getting ready to ship out to Germany via the Air Force. When he returned three years later, the two were married in San Antonio, her hometown.

Vivian gave birth to Johnny’s first four children, including the singer Roseanne Cash. However, the marriage came to an end after 12 years when white country singer June Carter stole Johnny away from Vivian.

The subject of Johnny’s first marriage is interesting at several levels. For one, it illustrates how poor country boys from the sticks can be mesmerized by exotic women. It’s also illustrative to consider that after straying into exotic arms, Johnny ended up going back to his white roots.

Then there’s Texas law. It appears that while Texas (and the south in general) forbade marriages between whites and pure Negros that exceptions were made for marriages between whites and exotics.

Last, but not least, is the acceptance by fans of the interracial marriage of Cash and Vivian (who died a few years ago). My father was a big Cash fan, but I don’t think he knew anything about Cash’s personal life since he didn’t read fan magazines.

Officially, Vivian Liberto is Italian. Take a look at these old photos and see if you buy that story.

Are people as dark as vivian and with Negroidish features such as hers identifiable as white? Would they be allowed to live in a white country?

What do you think about this issue?

70 thoughts on “Was Johnny Cash’s First Wife a Negress?

  1. I wish I didn’t discover this. I did not know that about Johnny Cash. I grew up on Johnny Cash music and still love it. Wow.

    • It’s OK. It’s not like he fell for a black as coal mammy. Where I grew up in South Louisiana, lots of kids who went to the “white” school looked like her. Only the true, full blooded blacks had to go to a black school.

  2. You can see the confusion in its eyes, and in the one photo where it’s reclining on the bed, deadness in its eyes. Whites can’t mimic that unless they’re retarded.

    • Yes , i see this and i’m agree .But i find that look very disturbing.
      I’m from north italy , she haven’t anything that resemble me of a woman of my folk.

  3. Did a quick search, looks liker her father’s line comes from Sicily. On the birth certificate both parents claim white. Maybe her looks come from her mom’s line mixed with her Sicilian roots.

    • Sud italy is more africa for me than europe .
      We call , in north italy , people from sud italy “terroni ” .Unfortunately they invaded northern Italy

  4. If there are 40 million offical Negros in the USA, there must also be another 10 or 20 million negros pretending to be white, and living as whites.

  5. A popular gambit, a long time ago, was for a black person to say that they weren’t a “Negroe,” they were Ethiopians. This woman may have claimed that she was descended from Italians who invaded Ethiopia.

  6. Thanks for the interesting background story. Johnny Cash was OK, but I was never much for “country twang” music.

    Vivian definitely looks a bit strange with a very large mouth, & she definitely needs an eyebrow makeover.

    Even so, what a stab to dump the mother of your first FOUR kids. That was probably a heart-killer for her.

    I was curious what June Carter looked like when she snagged Johnny Cash away from Vivian (Carter/Cash married 1968). I guess she was a redhead originally. Here’s a few photos:

  7. Back to Vivian, she was definitely a tiny little thing, whatever her mixture. The title with this photo says:

    “‘Drugs and June Carter’ – Johnny Cash’s First Wife Reveals What Ruined Their Marriage”

    • Links to the stories that go with that photo are below:

      “Johnny Cash’s first wife tells of romance, heartbreak”:

      You may have already read those but after reading two of them, I’m on Vivian’s side. A very touching story all around; she never stopped loving him even though she divorced him in 1966 when he was messing with June & crashing on drugs; divorce was final in 1967.

      Vivian remarried as well in 1968 to a police detective & spent her life busy in the community, volunteer work, garden clubs, raising their four daughters, knitting afghans, etc. She was never a druggie, drunk, etc. She was a “staunch Catholic” all her life & her Catholic priest uncle had married Vivian & Johnny.

      In their early years, Vivian & Johnny together wrote over 10,000 pages of love letters to each other when he was in the service. Vivian published her memoirs in a book, “I Walked the Line – My Life with Johnny” in which many of those letters are included.

      Vivian visited Johnny in 2003 & told him she was going to write a book, & he said, “Well, it’s about time!” lol. He died later that year. June died earlier the same year (how odd). Vivian died in 2005.

      Bottom Line: June was the aggressor who chased Johnny from the get-go & she was also a druggie who supplied drugs to JC, at least when they were younger; supposedly later she would flush his drugs down the toilet.



      Johnny Cash: 2/26/1932 – 9/12/2003; died from complications of diabetes at age 71.

      Vivian Dorraine Liberto Cash Distin: 4/23/1934 – 5/24/2005; died from complications from lung-cancer surgery at age 71.

      Valerie June Carter Cash: 6/23/1929 – 5/15/2003; died from complications of heart-valve surgery at age 73.

    • Tip: Remove anything after .jpg? and the pic will appear rather than the link. I took out he string of numbers and that’s why he pic is visible now.

      Cash was a big guy so I guess most women would looks small next to him. In the pic, she looks like a Flip.

      • Thank you, yes, I know about .jpg at the end, but if I remember correctly, I couldn’t find jpg embedded within one of the photo links at all. Thanks for finding/fixing it!

        Big Johnny was 6.1-1/2 or 6.2 per two different sites. So, yeah, probably any lady would look “petite” next to that. 🙂

  8. You guys must read this re Vivian. Wow, what a great lady & Mom & hostess & wife & grandmother. I doubt “exotic” ladies do all these things, the lady was a walking “craft shop” who could make anything with her hands, all the the household things that wives/mothers love to do (reminds me of my grandmother), plus cooking for holidays, making cookies, chocolates, etc. She had two dogs, too.

    This is a beautiful story with a beautiful photo of Vivian with silver hair (see above) at Find-A-Grave, she no longer looks “exotic”; plus there are two later photos of her where she looks like a regular “plump” white older lady…

    • I saw all that in my research, but wanted to stay focused on the racial issue. She found happiness with a man named Dustin, as I recall. She also wrote a book about her life with JC.

      Several of the stories suggest that she was civic minded too, leading ladies volunteer groups for this or that.

      To be clear, I’m not knocking her in any way. I just find it it curious that JC would marry an exotic. But as Robert suggests, Elvis was probably slightly mixed race too. I guess it’s kind of a burden on many white southerners to know that they have nonwhite ancestors.

      • Wow. Paladin you’re nothing but a racist pig. I would say i feel sorry for you and for your family/children, if you have any. But i don’t. You’ve certainly proven that higher education certainly doesn’t make you any classier. Funny thing though, why are white women constantly chasing black men? Everywhere you look. Seems like white folks cant get enough of US! Funny too how the devil is always associated with white people. Devils w/blue eyes and blond hair. For a so-called educated person this article speaks of only hate. You’re not as highly educated as you think you are.

  9. Wow, didn’t know. thought his ex-wife was caucasian and never bother to look at it till this and I’m jaw drop. Then why in heck the movie made his ex-wife appeared to be a Caucasian in the movie called “Walk the Line”?SMH. it’s shocking that he chooses to marry her since she looks too obvious negro. Do understand why Johnny Cash want to divorce her then married June.I went ahead to search if fans had been boycotted Johnny Cash in back then? here the title “Johnny Cash’s dark California days” Link: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/oct/12/entertainment/la-et-ms-johnny-cash-calif/4
    what more I found photo the newspaper “Arrest Exposes Johnny Cash’s Negro Wife then at the bottom said “Press story: Unknowing country music fans buy records. I tried to post in this and couldn’t.

    • It was a shock to me to see what she looked like too. This post is drawing more attention than I thought it would. In all honesty, I didn’t think very many people would be interested since its sort of ancient history.

    • Exactly!! Look at the profile picture he hides behind. A wolf in sheeps clothing as the saying goes. Doubt he has a Ph.D. Coward! What a shame people like him exist. Stuck in the 60’s. Catch up moron. Times have changed and the whole “exotic” thing doesn’t make it sound less racist after your comments. You all are “exotic”!!

  10. negress? coal ass mammy? a full black women would never be a great mother, hostess, cook? you guys have serious issues indeed.

      • God damn it! Dude stfu you bring actual conservatives to shame. It’s not political dumb ass, it’s being racist your a racist that’s all there is to it. All men are created equal! Take my advise for the sake of your offspring you need to to mix with some who you aren’t related to. Damn inbreeding is so sad your an example of it sir!

    • Come on! Even as a devout racist, you can’t really believe that black women can’t be good mothers, hostesses and great cooks, JUST because they’re black. NO disrespect at all, sincerely, but saying things like that make your views sound like anger, with no real reasoning behind it. Anger is just an emotion, and most of the time it passes, or at least loses its heat, so to speak. Making crass, very predictable, dated, clearly just passionate opinions that happen to fit your beliefs, with no facts or even a serious and relevant example to understand how you came to feel that way, and just the mean spirited approach, makes your claims hard to believe or even take seriously. Being THAT obviously angry and saying silly, very simple, tried and true, same old same old racist ideals and almost inneffective in its “gee, we need some new material, that doesn’t even make sense to US anymore” mindset, is not helping your cause. It doesn’t sound appealing in any way-it sounds personal, like it belongs in your daily journal. Not persuasive-only playing into the stereotypes that plague that thinking and delivery.
      Not EVERYONE is that angry. Or that disillusioned. The VAST majority of people in this country want facts, figures and examples before attempting to seriously modify our entire moral and ethical compass. It is our God given and American born right to question, ponder, accept or reject a belief system. We are all America. Not the soil-the people who inhabit her and love her and wouldn’t be anywhere else on earth, given a choice. Anger isn’t a pass or an excuse, a legitimate or even a logical reason to hate or revile those who will, one day in the very near future, be that VAST majority. That would be treason to only uphold, support and defend a portion of our beautiful home, versus all of it. In order for any great number of Americans to turn their back on the greatest people from the greatest country, and the most brilliant social experiment, EVER to feel God’s grace, hateful, divisive, opinions, antiquated thoughts, views, and embarrassing, offensive, and frankly, un-American attitudes will not sway in any way, true Americans who believe the constitution is the only thing that selfishly belongs to each one of us individually, yet we gladly share it.

      • Johnny Cash’s first wife was truly a beautiful looking human being & all the negatives about her are dispicable & I’m white by the way.

  11. In the 1980s I worked with two part Coons who identified as white. One was a US Southerner, who was probably one quarter black. The other was an abo who may have been quarter or even half Abo. The US guy was nice, the abo was not. The abo was very ugly, as most Boongs are. The US guy has a rounded face, big mouth and smile, dark hair, dark eyes, various other things like a brown skin even in winter – not white. He married a white Australian girl and they went to live in the USA.

    Nowadays, especially for any unemployed or down and out person in the West, self-identifying as black may be the smarter thing to do. Housing and other benefits are assigned to non-whites first, especially in countries like Australia. Abos go to the front of the queue.

    • Not at all. Those programs for the down and out in the west are all but gone. Poor is poor. Black/white-we ALL suffer from a lack of green.

    • Exactly, mulatto/quadroon/octoroon. And she looks ‘tarded, wondering if she really was that way. Ugly in her youth, much better looking in old age, when she looks like a lighter version of Dionne Warwick. Oh and Elvis wasnt that mixed. Jewish mother, Scottish father, u get the picture, but hey many celebs think that adding other races/ethnicities to their family tree makes them more “exotic” or interesting. Bullshit of course. And lets get back to music, real music, it matters much more than Cash’s interbreeding or Elvis’ ethnicity. What now, u wont listen to Cash anymore coz at some point he married a nignog? Get real! June Carter looked like a man in the face after a certain age anyway and much older. At least she was really pretty in her youth compared to the negress. Wondering if there were only 4 years difference between them.

      • I think Vivian looked ” ‘tarded” in her younger years because she had a “lazy eye” in her right eye; plus possibly “permed” hair (or naturally kinky?). Permanents were a big deal in those years. Plus she was super skinny. She didn’t “blossom” as a woman until later.

        If you’ve seen photos of the very young Dionne Warwick, she also was not very pretty at all, super skinny. However, she looked much better the older she got. I suppose some women “blossom” later rather than earlier.

      • Correction: Vivian’s left eye, not right, looks like a “lazy eye.”

        Above, last comment, was to Wullfe. I should be more specific in these replies.

      • He did not marry a “nignog”. And the Sicilian that you mistakenly call a “negress” was a lot better looking than the plain white horse June-bug Carter.

      • He stayed married to June. He cheated on and divorced the “nignog” or whatever she was. The point was not about beauty, but about whether interracial marriage works. For the white profs at my university who married Mexicans, it didn’t.

    • I’m no expert but I agree. I don’t think she looked that “black.” How many black families have Roman Catholic priests as relatives? But Italians surely would. 😉

  12. The true exotics of the world are the Rh negatives and those Rh positives with the alleles for Rh negative. Nordics are the true exotics of the world.

    • Some white men want to get down and dirty with sex. Picking an “exotic” is one way to do it. I noticed that the white male profs at the university who married browns and then divorced went back to white women the way Johnny Cash did.

  13. It’s a fact Sicily Italy was invaded by Morrs from Africa in Ancient times which interbreeding took place. I have noticed in my life time that some Italian women I’ve seen and met have black features.

  14. One thing people should remember, is that we are all human beings, ,and we are one species with variations within that one species. The blackest of black from. the Sudan can have a child with a pure Asian from China and a pure White person from Poland. These same people can exchange organs and blood to save each other’s life.

    Vivan was a beautiful woman, civic minded and a good mother. Negroid features are not ugly as some ignorance people have suggested. Look at the number of people in the world who go to plastic surgeons to get pull lips and tan their skin. Variations among human are adaptations and are beautiful.
    Johhny Cash loved and had four children with Vivian. Race is nothing but a label anyway.

  15. i know vivian’s family and the priest that married them. visited with him many times.In fact the priest(father V) and vivian liberto are third cousins of mine. She is definetly not negro but italian (sicilian). never got to meet her but knew very well some of her uncles and aunts. My grandmother was a liberto before she was married.

  16. Given that she is from San Antonio, and based on her maiden name, I would assume she was Mexican. Most Mexicans are racially mixed between White Spanish and Native American with some African ancestry in some family lines. Based on her looks I would assume she has some African DNA, but primarily I would imagine she is of Mexican descent.

  17. Who cares if she was black. It’s sad to think they lived in a time and placed where her ethnicity is something they had to hide.

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