Despite all the drama, Bill Cosby has found himself in, his wife Camille Hanks has stood by him. The couple has been married for more than five decades and met when she was still a student.
Bill Cosby met his future wife, Camille Hanks, in the spring of 1963 while on a blind date at a bowling alley. She was 19 and a student at the University of Maryland, and he was a 25-year-old comedian in Washington for a gig at Georgetown’s the Shadows, a small club.
Camille’s parents worried she was too young for him, and the couple started a long-distance relationship when Bill returned to New York. The following year, Camille dropped out of college.
Bill Cosby and his wife Camille Cosby at his trial at Montgomery County Courthouse on June 12, 2017, in Norristown, Pennsylvania, and the pair at a charity benefit in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, November 1966 | Photos: Gilbert Carrasquillo/WireImage & Max B. Miller/Fotos International/Getty Images
Catherine and Guy Hanks disapproved of the pair getting married. According to a family friend who attended St. Peter’s Church, Camille’s mother didn’t want her marrying Bill, and her father gave his blessings because he was tired of being aggravated.
The couple was very young when they tied the knot, with Camille being 19 and her groom 26. The family friend also disapproved of the couple’s union with them stating:
“Bill is wonderful in a lot of ways, but you knew right away, when he first came to our church, Camille may have gotten more than what she bargained for.”
Bill Cosby prepares to film the new opening sequence for “The Cosby Show’s” seventh season at Kaufman-Astoria Studios in New York in August 1990 | Photo: Joe McNally/Getty Images
According to the family friend, Guy, who has since passed, thought if Bill cheated on his daughter, she would hit him over the head with a frying pan. In the mid-and late-1960s, Bill and Camille ended up moving to Los Angeles as his career reached its peak.
In an interview with Essence, the star’s wife confessed that they were suddenly successful people. She said having money coming in changed their lives drastically.
Camille and Bill Cosby at the “Fat Albert” Block Party. Image uploaded on April 19, 2004 | Photo: Jesse Grant/WireImage/Getty Images
In 1971, Camille and her husband’s three children moved to Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. She could live a quieter life away from Hollywood, but Bill had to travel between Los Angeles for work and his family’s new home.
The comedian allegedly used this opportunity to live a double life. Bill started having an affair with his Los Angeles secretary Shawn Berkes, whom he met at a nightclub in the same city.
Camille and Bill Cosby in Hollywood, California at the Emmy Awards on September 12, 1965 | Photos: Bettmann/Getty Images
Berkes later claimed she’d given birth to his child when the star and his wife had been together for 10 years. More than 20 years after the affair, Bill confessed during a court case that he’d paid $100,000 to keep his relationship with Berkes a secret.
With her, he shared a daughter, Autumn Jackson. Camille confessed that she knew about her husband’s affair long before Jackson tried to extort money from them during an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
In the 1970s, Bill’s career had slowed down. For instance, in 1972, his comedy-variety show only lasted for one season, and two years later, he started turning to corporate advertising deals, including the one as a television spokesman for Jell-O.
In 1977, when he turned 40, the star vowed to cut back on his philandering ways. According to a biography, “His Life and Times,” his new focus was now going to be his family, which now included five children.
By the 1990s, Bill had found fame again as Dr. Cliff Huxtable on his hit show, “The Cosby Show.” The series was modeled against the star’s real-life family, including their five children.
Sadly, while Bill’s name grew again, a tragedy was about to strike the family. His son, Ennis Cosby, 28, was shot dead in his Los Angeles driveway next to a green Mercedes in January 1997 while changing a flat tire.
Bill made arrangements so his son could be laid to rest on the family property in Shelburne Falls in the fields where he had played as a child. When he came home and addressed the media back in Los Angeles, the star had this to say about his only son:
Ennis was buried on a Sunday during a cold New England afternoon, with his funeral attended by three friends and mainly family members. Bill, Camille and her mother, the couple’s four daughters, the star’s brother, and his wife all attended.
The comedian, his wife, and their children all emotionally eulogized Ennis. Not a dry eye was in the room as Ennis’ parents revealed they would put down a pine tree and light it every Christmas on his birthday.
A month after her son’s tragic death, Camille wrote that he’d never had a mother. She called herself a “nonentity” whose husband made a public confession about a 1970s liaison to cause her name to be printed everywhere.
Camille noted how well-known she became at that point but for nothing good. She was acknowledged for, what she called, undesirable reasons instead of the intelligent person she was, but she and Bill supported each other through the loss.
In February 2018, the Cosby family faced more tragedies when Ensa passed away at age 44. The daughter, who was always steadfastly in her support of her father through his legal troubles, died from renal disease in Massachusetts.
Things started getting tenser in Bill’s marriage in 2004 when from mid-January to mid-February, Andrea Constand claimed the star sexually assaulted her. She said the incident occurred in his home of Cheltenham Township in Montgomery, Pennsylvania.
About a dozen women like Tamara Green and Beth Ferrier came forward with sexual assault claims from that point forward. Bill was in and out of court during these years, and his appearances ended in 2018.
Camille [Hanks Cosby] explained how the people she named all came together to give her support when Ennis [Cosby] was killed.
He was sentenced to three to 10 years in state prison after being designated a “sexually violent predator.” However, he was eventually released on June 30, 2021, when the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania overturned his conviction.
CAMILLE STANDS BY BILL’S SIDE
Despite the damning accusations, Camille still stayed by her husband’s side and supported him. She spoke up for the first time in April 2018 after her husband was found guilty of sexual assault, claiming he was the wrong person convicted.
She alleged that the ruling was akin to mob justice instead of real justice. Camille claimed the accusations against her husband had evolved into lynch mobs.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO CAMILLE
During an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Camille sort of explained her undying devotion to Bill. When asked what was most important to her, she named her family – husband, children, mother, and siblings.
She said she couldn’t imagine functioning without those people. Camille explained how the people she named all came together to give her support when Ennis was killed.