Rose Swisher was Bill Russell's first wife and mom of his three children

Joshua Rogers August 1, 2022
Rose Swisher was Bill Russell's first wife and mom of his three children
Bill Young/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

After the former Celtics star passed away, fans want to know more about Rose Swisher, Bill Russell’s first wife and mother of his three children.

NBA and Boston Celtics legend Bill Russell has passed away at the age of 88, his family revealed in a statement.

Russell won 11 NBA championships during his Hall of Fame career with the Boston Celtics, which also included five MVP awards and 12x All-Star selections.

Bill won eight consecutive titles from 1959 to 1966 with the franchise. His last two championships came as head coach – he was the first black head coach in any major US sport.

Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images

Family pay tribute to legendary figure

The family statement announcing his passing read: “It is with a heavy heart we would like to pass along to all of Bill’s friends, fans and followers [that] Bill Russell, the most prolific winner in American sports history, passed away peacefully today aged 88, with his wife, Jeannine, by his side.

“Bill’s wife, Jeannine, and his many friends and family thank you for keeping Bill in your prayers. Perhaps you’ll relive one or two of the golden moments he gave us, or recall his trademark laugh as he delighted in explaining the real story behind how those moments unfolded.”

Read the full statement below:

Bill Russell’s first wife was Rose Swisher

The Celtics legend had four wives in his life, and was married to Jeannine at the time of his death.

Bill Russell’s first wife was Rose Swisher, whom he married on December 9, 1956. Bill and Rose were college sweethearts and were together for much of Bill’s NBA success.

However, they divorced in 1973, with Bill going on to marry former Miss USA Dorothy Anstett four years later. After her marriage to Bill ended, Rose stayed out of the limelight and lived a relatively secluded life.

Rose Swisher reportedly died aged 78 on September 11, 2014.

Bob Campbell/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Bill and Rose had three children together

Rose Swisher and Bill Russell had three children, daughter Karen Russell and sons William Jr and Jacob. Bill did not have any more children.

Bill Russell’s daughter, Karen, was born in 1962. She is reportedly a legal and political analyst who graduated from Georgetown University and Harvard Law School.

Karen has served as development director for the Robert F Kennedy Memorial Center For Human Rights and has also contributed to publications such as The New York Times Magazine.

William Jr, Bill’s first son, was born in 1957 but passed away from cancer in 2016.

Jacob was born in 1959 and is reportedly happily married.

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Joshua is a senior sports writer with over four years' experience in online writing. He graduated with a BA in Ancient History from The University of Manchester before receiving an MA in Sports Journalism from The University of Central Lancashire. He became a trending writer for a leading social publisher and later spent time covering the 2018 World Cup for The Mirror Online. He then moved to a social marketing agency where he acted as website editor. His specialties on The Focus include F1, tennis, NBA, NFL and combat sports.