HomeBioRose Swisher Biography: All about the first wife of Bill Russell

Rose Swisher Biography: All about the first wife of Bill Russell

Rose Swisher is the former wife of NBA legend Bill Russell. Russell was an American professional basketball player who played as a centre for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association from 1956 to 1969. Swisher was the first of Russell’s four wives.

Rose Swisher
Rose Swisher

Born in Chicago, Rose attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and became a social activist in the 1960s. She was one of the students who protested against the Vietnam War. Throughout her life, Rose fought for social justice. 

During their marriage, Rose Swisher supported Bill Russell’s basketball career but also pursued her interests. She was an accomplished seamstress and designed many of her clothes. She was also an active member of the Boston community, volunteering her time with various charitable organisations.

Not many know that Rose was one of the first African-American supermodels of the 1950s and 1960s, appearing on the cover of “Ebony” magazine and fashion runways. She was also very popular for being the face of Maybelline Cosmetics.

Profile summary

Full NameRose Swisher
Date of BirthNovember 26, 1933
Place of BirthPennsylvania, USA
Ethnicity Black American
ProfessionModel and Photographer
SpouseBill Russell (Divorced)
ChildrenKaren Russell, William Felton Jr. (late) and Jacob H. Russell
Height5 feet 5 inches
Eye ColorBlack
Date of death 11th September 2014
Education University of San Francisco 

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Rose Swisher age

Rose Swisher was born on December 27th, 1936, and died at the age of 81 in 2014.

Bill Russell’s wife, Rose Swisher

Rose Swisher  on her wedding day
Rose Swisher on her wedding day

Rose Swisher and Bill Russell tied the knot on December 9, 1956, after being college sweethearts. Their enduring union lasted until 1973, when they eventually divorced. Throughout their time together, they were blessed with three children – Jacob Russell, William Russell Jr., and Karen Russell.

Rose Swisher maintained a private and reserved lifestyle, choosing to stay away from the public eye. Consequently, not much information about her personal life was made available to the public. In contrast, their daughter, Karen Russell, pursued a different path and became a television analyst and a lawyer, stepping into the public sphere.

Tragically, the couple experienced the heartbreaking loss of their first son, William Russell Jr., who succumbed to cancer in 2016. The family endured this profound loss, and the memory of their beloved son continues to live on.

After their divorce, Russell married Dorothy Anstett in 1977. Anstett was crowned Miss USA in 1968. Even though the couple divorced in 1980, their relationship was engulfed with controversy because Anstett was white. 

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Bill Russell

Bill Russell
Bill Russell

Bill Russell is a retired American professional basketball player widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in the sport’s history. He was born on February 12, 1934, in West Monroe, Louisiana, USA.

Bill Russell played as a centre for the Boston Celtics during his illustrious NBA career from 1957 to 1969. He was known for his exceptional defensive skills, shot-blocking ability, and leadership on the court.

Russell was a dominant force in the NBA and played a key role in leading the Boston Celtics to 11 NBA championships, making him one of the most decorated champions in basketball history.

Beyond his on-court success, Bill Russell also advocated for civil rights and social justice. He faced racial discrimination and adversity during his playing career but remained steadfast in his commitment to equality. Throughout his life, he used his platform and influence to speak out against racial injustice and promote social change.

After retiring from professional basketball, Bill Russell went on to work as a coach, a sports commentator and continued his involvement in various social causes. His contributions to the game of basketball and his impact on civil rights have made him an iconic figure in sports and American history.

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Bill Russell career

Bill Russell career
Bill Russell career

Bill Russell had a remarkable basketball career that spanned over two decades, leaving an indelible mark on the sport and cementing his status as one of the all-time greats. Here are some key highlights of Bill Russell’s illustrious career:

1. College Career: Bill Russell attended the University of San Francisco and played college basketball for the Dons from 1953 to 1956. He led the Dons to back-to-back NCAA Championships in 1955 and 1956 and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament both years.

2. NBA Career: Russell was drafted by the Boston Celtics with the 2nd overall pick in the 1956 NBA Draft. He played his entire NBA career with the Celtics from 1957 to 1969. During his time with the Celtics, he won an incredible 11 NBA championships (1957, 1959-1966, 1968, 1969), making him the most decorated champion in the history of the NBA.

3. Defensive Dominance: Bill Russell was renowned for his defensive prowess. He was an exceptional shot-blocker, rebounder, and defensive leader. His defensive skills and basketball IQ revolutionized the way the centre position was played.

4. 5-time MVP: Russell won the NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) award five times in his career (1958, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965).

5. Olympic Success: Russell won a gold medal representing the United States at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

6. All-Star Appearances: He was selected to the NBA All-Star team 12 times during his career.

7. Coaching Stint: After retiring as a player, Bill Russell briefly served as a player-coach for the Celtics during the 1966-67 season, becoming the first African American coach in the NBA. He led the Celtics to another championship during that season.

8. Hall of Fame Induction: Bill Russell was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975.

Beyond his basketball accomplishments, Bill Russell’s impact extended off the court, where he was an influential advocate for civil rights and social justice. His legacy as both a basketball icon and a prominent figure in the fight for equality has left a lasting impact on the game of basketball and American society

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Bill swisher relationships

Bill Russell and Jeanine
Bill Russell and Jeanine

Bill Russell’s romantic relationships have not been widely publicized or extensively documented. Throughout his life, he was known to be relatively private about his personal life, including his romantic involvements.

The most well-known romantic relationship of Bill Russell was with his first wife, Rose Swisher. They got married on December 9, 1956, and were together until their divorce in 1973. They had three children together – Jacob Russell, William Russell Jr., and Karen Russell.

Bill Russell has 4 Wifes in his life. Jeannine is Bill’s fourth marriage. He was previously married to Rose Swisher (1956–1973), Dorothy Anstett (1977–1980), and Marilyn Nault (1996–2009).

After five years, Russell married her second wife Dorothy in 1977. Dorothy was Bill Russell’s spouse 2nd. Even though the former Miss USA in 1968 and Russell were happy at first. But later, things became bad, and they divorced in 1980.

Marilyn Nault Russell was born in Concordia, Kansas, on January 15, 1950. Marilyn was Bill Russell’s spouse, 3rd. This made her almost sixteen years younger than Russell. After high school, Nault began working as a jewellery salesperson. During that time, she met Russell.

Russell’s relationship with Marilyn was long-lasting in comparison to her early marriages. But unfortunately, Marilyn died battling cancer in 2009, and their relationship ended there. Russell took much time to recover from her death.

In 2016 Russell tied the knot with her fourth wife, Jeannine. Jeannine was Bill Russell’s spouse’s 4th.  She was a professional golfer and won Player of the Year in the Canadian Women’s Golf Tour in 2010. But it’s not clear how Russell met Jeannine.

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Rose Swisher children

Bill Russell, widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, is the proud father of three children – Karen, William Jr. (known as “Daequan”), and Jaclyn.

Karen Russell, the eldest child, was born on July 10, 1981, in Miami, Florida. An accomplished author and educator, she earned her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the prestigious Columbia University School of the Arts in 2006.

Karen’s literary works stand out for their distinctive fusion of surrealism and realism, earning her widespread acclaim.

Her published books, including “Swamplandia!” received high praise, and the novel was even a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Karen Russell currently imparts her expertise as a creative writing teacher at Columbia University School of the Arts.

William Jr., born on October 13, 1983, in California, followed in his father’s footsteps by pursuing a basketball career. He showcased his talent both in Europe’s professional leagues and the NBA Development League.

Apart from his athletic journey, William also ventured into broadcasting, where he excelled as an analyst and commentator for NBA TV and the NBA on TNT.

Jaclyn Russell, the youngest sibling, came to the world in California on March 11, 1987. Her academic path led her to Loyola Marymount University, where she specialised in Business Administration. Jaclyn thrives as a highly successful real estate agent, serving clients in Southern California.

Bill Russell’s legacy extends beyond his extraordinary basketball career, as he has raised accomplished and talented children who have each found success in their respective fields.

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rose swisher obituary

Rose Swisher died at the age of 78 on September 11, 2014, from unknown causes.


Is Bill Russell alive?

No, Bill Russell is dead.

How many children do Bill Russell and Rose Swisher have?

Rose Swisher’s 17 years of marriage with Bill Russell was blessed with three children; two sons and a daughter. Karen, William Jr., and Jacob.

is rose swisher still alive

No, Rose Swisher is dead.

Who was Bill Russell’s wives?

Bill Russell, the former professional basketball player, was married three times. Bill Russell’s first wife was Rose Swisher. They were married in 1956 and had three children together before divorcing in 1973.
Dorothy Anstett: After his divorce from Rose Swisher, Bill Russell married Dorothy Anstett in 1977.

Marilyn Nault: Bill Russell’s third marriage was to Marilyn Nault.
Jeanine Russell: she was the last wife.

How many times did Bill Russell get married?

Bill Russell, the former professional basketball player, got married four times. Bill Russell’s first wife was Rose Swisher. They were married in 1956 and had three children together before divorcing in 1973. After his divorce from Rose Swisher, Bill Russell married Dorothy Anstett in 1977. In 1996 Russell married her third wife, Marilyn. In 2016 Russell tied the knot with her fourth wife, Jeannine.

How many kids did Bill Russell have?

Bill Russell had three kids, Karen, William Jr., and Jacob. He shared all three kids with his first wife, Rose Swisher.

How rich was Bill Russell?

Bill Russell’s net worth was estimated to be around $10 million to $15 million.
Bill Russell is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time and had a successful career on and off the court. During his playing days, he won numerous championships with the Boston Celtics and earned a significant income from his NBA contracts. After retiring as a player, he also pursued various business ventures, coaching roles, and broadcasting opportunities.

Why did Bill and Rose divorce?

In 1973, Rose filed for divorce from Bill and cited irreconcilable differences as the reason for their separation. Rose once said about Bill – There is no way to describe the shape he would be in if it weren’t for me. He’d be dead by now.


Rose Swisher, the first wife of Bill Russell, passed away at the age of 86. She is survived by her son William and her daughter Karen Russell, who is married to multimillionaire Dikembe Mutombo.

Oluwatoyin Odunuyi
Oluwatoyin Odunuyihttps://linktr.ee/ToyinAjua
Oluwatoyin Eria-Ajua Odunuyi resides in the bustling city of Lagos, Nigeria. In 2020, she received a BSc in Mass communication from Caleb University and specialized in print journalism. Toyin loves to write romance novels because she is obsessed with living in a never-ever-land and often lives through her books. She presently owns a 5-year blog called "An Inclusive Kind world" where she speaks on Autism and society's role in pushing for awareness and inclusion.