Tonight, Bill Russell will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2019 ESPYs, which honor the biggest and best stars in the world of sports.
Tonight’s event will be hosted by Tracy Morgan, and will air live on ABC from 7-10pm ET from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. As Russell takes to the stage to accept the award, some fans may grow curious about his family and children. What do we know about Russell’s personal life?
1. His First Wife Was His College Sweetheart
In 1956, Russell married his college sweetheart, Rose Swisher. They were happily wed until 1973.
Around that time, according to John Taylor’s book, “The Rivalry: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, and the Golden Age of Basketball,” they grew emotionally distant and divorced.
Over the course of his life, Rusell played 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics, during which time he took home 11 championships titles with the team. In 1975, he was inducted into the basketball hall of fame.
2. He Had Three Children with His First Wife
Together, Russell and Swisher had three children: daughter Karen, and sons William Jr. and Jacob.
In May 30, it was announced that the former Celtics player would be receiving the Arthur Ashe Award at the ESPYs.
In honoring the legendary athlete, ESPN writes that recipients of the distinguished award, “reflect the spirit of Arthur Ashe, possessing strength in the face of adversity, courage in the face of peril and the willingness to stand up for their beliefs no matter what the cost.”
Russell responded to the honor by tweeting, “Just found out I will be receiving the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Arthur was a man of great courage. Tune in July 10, this is a special honor!” He included the picture below.
3. His Daughter Karen Is a Television Pundit and Lawyer
Television Pundit and Lawyer Karen Russell is the only daughter of Bill Russell. Today, Karen is 57 years old.
In 1987, Karen Rusell penned an article for the New York Times titled, “Growing Up With Privilege and Prejudice.”
In the piece, she explains how she experienced such privilege in her life at times, but how she was also met with periods of intense racism and sexism. At one point, Karen asked her father if it was difficult to send her to school in Boston, where she attended Harvard Law School.
Bill answered, “I played for the Celtics, period… I did not play for Boston. I was able to separate the Celtics institution from the city and the fans. When I sent you to Harvard, I expected you to be able to do the same. I wanted you to have the best possible education and to be able to make the best contacts. I knew you’d encounter racism and sexism, and maybe, in some ways, that’s a good thing. If you were too sheltered, I’m afraid you’d be too naive. If you were too sheltered, you might not be motivated to help others who do not have your advantages.'”
Karen appears frequently on CNN, MSNBC, and TruTV as a legal and political analyst. She works as an attorney, corporate trainer, and political strategist, according to the Huffington Post.
4. His Second Wife Was Miss USA 1968
In 1977, four years after his divorce from Rose Swisher, Russell married Dorothy Anstett, who was Miss USA 1968.
Dorothy, who went by Didi, hailed from Kirkland, Washington, and went on to compete at the Miss Universe Pageant in July in Miami Beach of that same year.
Dorothy, according to a 1968 Associated Press article, was one of nine children of an aircraft plant worker. She graduated as an English Major from the University of Washington. At one point, the article reads, “The girl [Dorothy] listed as one of life’s ambitions the chance to teach high school for mentally retarded children. She already does volunteer work as a tutor for underprivileged children in her hometown.”
5. He Says He Is His Father’s Son
In 2014, after the unveiling of his statue at City Hall in Boston, Russell spoke a bit about his parents and what his life was like growing up. He revealed that his mother died when he was 12.
He is quoted by Fox Sports as saying that his father lived in Louisiana. When their family uprooted to Oakland, California, they lived in the projects.
Rusell states, “It was one bedroom, so my brother and I both had rollaway beds. Still, there was constantly a flow of people from Louisiana that my father would let stay with us. We didn’t have much, but there is something my father said: ‘It is not what you give, but what you share, for the gift without the giver is bare.’ My father’s philosophy was, ‘Always share what I have.’”