Who Was Rose Swisher: The First Wife of NBA Legend Bill Russell?

Rose Swisher, an American model and photographer, was the first wife of the renowned NBA player, Bill Russell. Let’s delve into the story of their relationship and shed light on Rose Swisher’s intriguing life.

The Marriage of Rose Swisher and Bill Russell

On December 9, 1956, Rose Swisher tied the knot with Bill Russell. At the time, Bill was a promising basketball player who would later establish himself as one of the greatest in the history of the sport. Their union resulted in the birth of three children: Jacob Russell, William Russell Jr., and Karen Russell. However, after seventeen years of marriage, Rose filed for divorce in 1973, citing irreconcilable differences as the cause.

Unveiling the Life of Bill Russell’s First Wife

While the public may have limited knowledge about Rose Swisher’s relationship with NBA legend Bill Russell, we can turn to Bill Russell’s autobiography, “My Life, My Road” (1985), to gain insights into their story.

Bill Russell’s Personal Life

Bill Russell’s personal life has always captured the interest of fans and enthusiasts. The same can be said for his relationship with Rose Swisher. They exchanged vows on December 9, 1956, coinciding with Bill’s signing with the Boston Celtics. However, their marriage ended in separation in 1973.

Rose Swisher’s Accomplishments

Rose Swisher, a trailblazing figure of the 1950s and 1960s, rose to prominence as one of the first African-American supermodels. She graced the covers of prestigious publications such as “Ebony” magazine and was a prominent face on fashion runways. Additionally, she gained widespread recognition as the ambassador of Maybelline Cosmetics.

Social Activism and Advocacy

Born in Chicago and later attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Rose Swisher emerged as a passionate social activist during the 1960s. She actively participated in anti-war protests against the Vietnam War, standing up for social justice and equality throughout her life.

Bill Russell’s Early Life

Bill Russell’s journey began in West Monroe, Louisiana, where he was raised in humble circumstances. As the son of Prince Rupert Russell, a sharecropper, and Julia Russell, he experienced the challenges of growing up in poverty. His early years involved laboring in his grandparents’ cotton farm, relying on only two pairs of pants and shirts to sustain him throughout the year.

In Memory of Rose Swisher

Rose Swisher’s life came to an end at the age of 86. She is survived by her son, William, and her daughter, Karen Russell, who is married to the accomplished multimillionaire, Dikembe Mutombo.


Rose Swisher, the first wife of NBA legend Bill Russell, played a significant role in the life of the renowned basketball player. Through her modeling career, social activism, and marriage to Bill, Rose left an indelible mark on the world. Although her story remains lesser-known, her contributions and the legacy she leaves behind will not be forgotten.

By laxman