Bill Cosby's Wife Camille Wed Him at 19 — Start of Their Marriage Faced Harassment & FBI Visits
Camille Cosby was only 19 when she married comedian Bill Cosby, seven years her senior. Not only did she put her education on hold for a while, harassment and FBI visits also rocked the early years of their union. A look inside their lives and marriage.
Born William Henry Cosby Jr. on July 12, 1937, Bill Cosby rose to fame as a comedian in the 1940s. The Philadephia native appeared on variety shows such as "The Ed Sullivan Show" after iconic actor Carl Reiner discovered him.
He played his breakthrough role, Alexander Scott, in the 1965 film "I Spy," which propelled him to stardom. His exceptional performance in the film earned him numerous Emmy awards.
Bill Cosby arrives at Montgomery County Court House on June 13, 2017 in Morristown, Pennsylvania. | Photo: Getty Images
NOTABLE CHANGES AFTER FAME
Given his massive success, Oprah Winfrey wondered if his wife Camille felt overshadowed by the famous actor. During an interview, Camille told her she never felt that way but added his fame changed both their lives. She said:
"Shortly after we married, his career was catapulted by [the sixties hit TV show] I Spy. So all of a sudden, we were out there, and I had so much to address, as Bill did."
Bill also starred in the hit 1989 sitcom "The Bill Cosby Show," where he played a teacher. Successful movies under his belt include "Uptown Saturday Night," "A Piece of Action," and "Let's Do It Again."
Bill Cosby and his wife, Camille at the Emmy Awards Ceremony in September 1965. | Photo: Getty Images
For her part, Camille pursued the academic path. In 1992, the Washington D.C. native earned a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, with her doctoral dissertation published by The University Press of America two years later.
On top of these, she has been overseeing their financial matters and philanthropic activities.
Besides her academic pursuits, Camille also served as her husband's business manager and as president of two production companies: COC Productions and C&J Productions.
Bill Cosby and his wife Camille speak onstage during the Apollo Theater 75th Anniversary Gala at The Apollo Theater on June 8, 2009 in New York City. | Photo: Getty Images
She produced Bill's last two albums released in 1987 and 1991 and co-directed his 1987 concert film "Bill Cosby: 49." Additionally, she has been overseeing their financial matters and philanthropic activities.
Bill and Camille have come a long way as a couple. She dropped out of school when she was 19 to marry the comedian. During the early years of the marriage, they encountered severe challenges.
When Richard Nixon became the U.S. President, he included Bill on his list of enemies, of which the couple was not aware at that time. They experienced harassment, including their phones being tapped.
Camille and Bill Cosby with their daughter Evin attend the launch of the pb&Caviar store on August 7, 2008 in New York City. | Photo: Getty Images
The FBI would come to their house and visit him at the studio. Camille explained that this harassment happened after Bill rejected a couple of Nixon's requests.
Camille said the situation, which went on at the start of their marriage, was difficult yet also a political and sociological awakening for her and Bill.
She stayed by Bill's side throughout these challenges. Preoccupied with her duties as a wife and mother, Camille did not go back to school until after having five children.
Bill and Camille Cosby walk backstage during the 38th annual NAACP Image Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on March 2, 2007 in Los Angeles, California. | Photo: Getty Images
She explained to Oprah that she decided to study again because she did not feel fulfilled educationally. Finishing her studies helped her grow her self-esteem.
Camille got her master's degree and then her doctoral degree. She said, "Education helped me to come out of myself, to come out of the home because I had been raising my children."
While she did not think raising children was a bad thing, she considered it as just one part of her "womanness." She wanted to pursue her other interests to find self-fulfillment.
Bill Cosby performs onstage at Funny Or Die Clubhouse + Facebook Pop-Up HQ @ SXSW on March 10, 2014 in Austin, Texas. | Photo: Getty Images
BILL'S SEXUAL ASSAULT CASE
Camille continued to be a dedicated mother and wife even as she busied herself with her interests. Years later, when several women accused Bill of sexual assault, Camille came to his defense.
In 2014, more than a dozen women came forward accusing the legendary entertainer of sexually assaulting them decades ago. In a statement, Camille insisted that her husband was a "kind man."
She also described him as generous, funny, and a "wonderful husband, father, and friend." Her statement defending Bill came as networks began canceling projects with the actor in light of the accusations.
Among Bill's accusers was model Janice Dickinson, who alleged that the groundbreaking entertainer drugged and sexually assaulted her in 1982. Another model, Beverly Johnson, also accused him of drugging her in the mid-1980s.
In 2018, Bill was convicted of three counts of indecent assault and battery for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee, in 2004.
Camille said she was "very, very pleased" when, in 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed to hear part of Bill's appeal. She also slammed the #MeToo movement, saying that it needs to clean up its act.
Bill Cosby leaves the Montgomery County Courthouse on February 27, 2017 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. | Photo: Getty Images
She also said she communicated with her husband every day, although she had not visited him in prison, unwilling to see her husband "in that kind of environment."
In June 2021, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the comedian should be released from prison, stating he was denied rights when he provided self-incriminating evidence in a civil suit.
The ruling came after Bill served two years of his three to 10-year sentence. Camille, who lived near the Pennsylvania jail where her husband was serving his sentence, was ecstatic over the ruling.
NO WEDDING RING
Two weeks after the comedian was released from prison, Camille was spotted in New York City not wearing her wedding ring. It was the first time she was photographed since the court ruling overturning Bill's sexual assault conviction.
While some may speculate that the couple's marriage was in trouble because of the absence of a wedding ring on Camille, her dedication to him throughout his legal ordeal was unquestionable.
Camille Cosby speaks on stage at the 35th Anniversary of the Jackie Robinson Foundation hosted by Bill Cosby on March 3, 2008 in New York City. | Photo: Getty Images
Aside from Bill's court battles, the couple also endured the painful loss of two children. In 2018, while the comedian was embroiled in sexual assault lawsuits, the couple's daughter Ensa, then 44, succumbed to renal disease.
In 1997, Bill and Camille also lost their son, Ennis, killed during a robbery attempt in Los Angeles. Ennis was 27 at the time of his death.
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