Vivian Liberto: 8 Things to Know About Johnny Cash’s First Marriage


1. It all started in Texas


Vivian Dorraine Liberto was born in San Antonio where she met Cash at a roller-skating rink when she was only 17 years old.

2. It was a bit of a whirlwind love story


Cash proposed after only three weeks of dating the young Vivian.

3. He wrote her love letters that she kept until her death

Liberto’s book includes multiple love letters that Cash wrote her during his time serving as an Air Force serviceman stationed in Germany following their whirlwind romance in San Antonio.

4. She and Cash received death threats


Though Liberto was Italian-American, she looked like a black woman in certain photographs, which led to threats from white supremacist groups. In addition to multiple canceled shows in the Jim Crow South of the 1960s, the Cash family also received death threats, making it a difficult time for a marriage that was already on the rocks.

5. She also moved on after the failed first marriage

While the Man in Black was moving on with June Carter, Liberto also remarried in 1968 to Ventura police officer Dick Distin. She left the Casitas Springs home in California that was once shared with her ex-husband and moved to Ventura.

6. She was more than just “Johnny Cash’s first wife”


Liberto was an active participant in her local community following her divorce. She was president of her garden club and even volunteered at the hospital and the local unwed mothers home.

7. They were on speaking terms until the end

Vivian visited Cash following June Carter’s death in 2003 and told him about her book that reflected on their lives. She was able to finish the book before her death due to complications from lung cancer surgery in 2005.

8. She also loved him until the end


Despite everything Johnny put her through, Liberto always wondered what it would have been like if she had been able to tour with him. She never stopped loving him and still always thought of him as the husband he once was. She even maintains in the book that she always wanted to make sure her daughters knew she loved their father.

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