Camille Cosby is known to most people as being the wife of comedian Bill Cosby. Despite being a relatively quiet, private person, she has been a driving force behind her husband’s career, and the success of The Cosby Show, one of the most popular television shows of all time.
Camille is also the mother of five children, a philanthropist, director, producer, author, actor, and Bill Cosby’s manager. This Camille Cosby wiki lays bare everything you need to know about the woman who defines herself as more than just someone who has been married to a famous comedian for over 50 years, and who defended the entertainer against allegations of sexual assault.
Who Is Camille Cosby?
Camille Olivia Hanks was born on March 20, 1944. The eldest of four children, she is also a distant cousin of Nancy Hanks Lincoln, the mother of President Abraham Lincoln.
Unlike many black families in America in the 1940s, Camille was born into the rarified, upper-middle class world of debutantes. Her parents were both college educated. Guy Hanks, who earned degrees from Southern University and Fisk University, worked as a government research chemist. Her mother, Catherine was a Howard University graduate.
The family lived in Norbeck, Maryland, a small community just outside Washington, D.C. Camille’s parents sent her to Catholic schools in the District: St. Cyprian’s, where she was taught by an order of African American nuns, the Oblate Sisters of Providence.
Later, she attended St. Cecilia’s Academy, which had the distinction of being racially integrated.
On the social scene, Camille was a pretty young woman who attracted attention whether she tried to or not.
“She was just really beautiful and smart and poised,” said Lynn French, who hung out in the same social circle. “You know how you grow up and you say, ‘I want to be like her’ — that’s how I felt about Camille.”
Like other wealthy families, Camille was presented to D.C. society as a debutante in 1961, at the prestigious Bachelor-Benedict Club. Camille, like the other debutants, came from educated, wealthy families, and were expected to make something of themselves.
It must have come as a shock a few years later when people heard she was dating a comedian.
When Camille Met Bill
Camille first crossed paths with Bill Cosby in 1963, when she was a 19-year-old studying psychology at the University of Maryland, and he was a comedian. Cosby, seven years her senior, took her to a small comedy club in Washington, D.C. where he was performing.
“I thought he was a very funny man,” she remembered. “He impressed me with his sincerity and humor.”
On their second date, Billy Cosby proposed to Camille. She didn’t accept his proposal, but they continued to see each other. On another date, he took her to a movie where he promptly fell asleep.
“That’s when I fell in love with him.”
She wasn’t supposed to, though. Cosby grew up in a poor neighborhood in Philadelphia that was polar opposite to the life she led. His mother was a maid, and his father an alcoholic.
On top of that, Cosby dropped out of college to pursue his comedy career. Camille unexpectedly followed a similar trajectory. The ambitious teen dropped out of the University of Maryland at 19 when she married Cosby on January 25, 1964. Suffice it to say, her parents were not pleased.
The couple moved to New York City, but their stay was short lived. They headed to Hollywood and Cosby’s career took off.
Camille and Bill Cosby Leave Hollywood for Massachusetts
While in Hollywood, Bill Cosby achieved international celebrity status. He was the first African American to start in a dramatic television series, appearing alongside Robert Culp in the hit show I Spy. The show debuted in 1965 and ran for three seasons. First-time actor Bill Cosby won three consecutive Emmy Awards for Leading Actor in a Drama Series in 1966, 1967, and 1968.
In addition to making more money than he imagined on TV, Cosby was also making upwards of $30,000 a week in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe (around $240,000 today). He was also making $5,000 a night ($40,000) for random shows.
Unfortunately, while Camille was at home having babies (the couple had five children — Erika, Erinn, Ennis, Evin and Ensa — all had names beginning with the letter “E,” which Cosby said stood for “excellence”), Bill was off womanizing and was a regular at the Playboy Mansion.
While she continued to support her husband, decades later, Camille would lament how the pain of her husband’s “selfish” behavior affected her during their L.A. years, as he indulged in the Hollywood lifestyle.
His years of womanizing in the mid-to-late 1960s take on a more sinister tone in light of the recent accusations of drugging and sexually assaulting women.
Cosby’s love of the fast paced life of Hollywood was responsible, in part, for the couple’s decision to move to Massachusetts in 1971. They bought a 1800s New England Colonial farmhouse outside Shelburne Falls, a picturesque village about two hours west of Boston.
Moving east didn’t quench Bill Cosby’s thirst for female attention. He acknowledged an affair in the mid-1970s with a woman by the name of Shawn Berkes. She later claimed, but never proved, that Bill Cosby was the father of her child. In a 2000 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Camille said she was aware of the affair.
Camille Cosby Finds Her Voice
Camille says that it wasn’t until about four years after the couple moved to Massachusetts in 1971 that their marriage fell into place. That was “when we knew that we really wanted to be with each other, that we didn’t want to live without each other,” Camille Cosby said.
Camille dropped out of university and moved to Hollywood, a city she didn’t love, for her husband. She wasn’t exactly living in the shadow of her famous husband, but she was certainly looking for her voice.
“I became keenly aware of myself in my mid-thirties. I went through a transition. I decided to go back to school, because I had dropped out of college to marry Bill when I was 19. I had five children, and I decided to go back. I didn’t feel fulfilled educationally. I dropped out of school at the end of my sophomore year. So I went back, and when I did, my self-esteem grew. I got my master’s, then decided to get my doctoral degree. Education helped me to come out of myself.”
When asked why she wasn’t content being the wife of a famous entertainer Camille added, “I don’t know exactly what it was, except that for me, integrity is important. For me friendships are important, family is important, and it is a blessing if we can have monetary benefits. That’s wonderful, and I love it. But I have to have the security of people who really care about me, and me about them. I want to be surrounded by people who have integrity. And, of course, my name is Camille, not Bill.”
…But Maintains a Low Profile
Despite feeling rejuvenated, Camille still kept a low profile, believing that it was her husband who had something to say, and who people wanted to listen to.
“My husband is the public person. He is the one who has something to say.”
She kept that low profile until the mid-1980s, when, following the advice of Jacqueline Brown, wife of Jesse Jackson, she began public speaking. She delivered commencement addresses at Howard and at Spelman, where in 1988, the Cosby’s donated $20.0 million.
In light of the sexual allegations against Bill Cosby, which he has vehemently denied, Spelman College suspended an endowment chair paid for, in part, by their $20.0 million donation. It was called the William and Camille Olivia Hanks Cosby Endowed Professorship.
Over the years, the quiet spoken Camille Cosby developed an edge, providing stinging thoughts on American politics, religion, and race relations. She told Oprah that she is spiritual, but does not belong to any organized religion. Camille also argued that the Christian image of a white, male God devalued African Americans. At Spelman, Camille accused then-President George H.W. Bush of not doing enough for historically black colleges.
The Cosby Show
Camille Cosby also found her voice in The Cosby Show. Not just because the character of Clair Huxtable was based on her. Camille’s fingerprints can be found on every level of The Cosby Show.
In the show’s original plan, that was pitched by Bill, Heathcliff was a limousine driver married to a Latin handywoman. Programming executives were not exactly thrilled with the idea. Camille convinced Bill to take the show in a different direction.
The producers believed strongly that both parents should have college educations. The idea worked for Cosby in his stand-up routines; the interaction between parents and children is always funnier when the parents think of themselves as being highly intelligent.
To which Cosby replied, “I think my wife would agree with you.”
When Bill briefed Camille on the show, she said, “You will not be a chauffeur!”
“Why not?” Bill asked.
“Because I’m not going to be a carpenter!” Camille replied.
Camille’s influence worked. The Cosby Show debuted on September 20, 1984 and spent eight years on air. During its run, it was ranked No. 1 on the Nielsen ratings for five years in a row.
Cliff Huxtable was listed as No. 1 on TV Guide’s “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time” list. And, on April 30, 1992, 44.4 million viewers tuned in for the finale of The Cosby Show; making it the seventh most-watch TV finale of all-time.
The Affairs of Bill Cosby and Camille’s Tragedy
The only affair or sexual indiscretion that it appears Camille admits to knowing about is the one Bill Cosby had with Shawn Berkes. While it was not yet known publicly in the mid-80s, Camille made remarks about relationships in general that hit a more personal tone.
“Making wrongs right starts with admission and correction by the wrongdoer,” she said. “Forgiving can’t be easy, and forgetting can be even harder. But there’s getting in forgetting and there’s giving in forgiving.”
A decade later, though, Bill’s secret affair eventually became public knowledge. Unfortunately, Camille had to address Bill’s infidelity while also dealing with the worst tragedy in her life.
On January 16, 1997, Camille and Bill’s only son, Ennis, 27, was shot to death on a Bel-Air freeway ramp in a botched robbery after pulling over to fix a flat tire. Ennis, who was completing his doctorate in special education at Columbia University, was visiting friends in the San Fernando Valley.
Another driver discovered his body lying next to his dark green Mercedes-Benz convertible in a pool of blood; the door ajar, cars emergency lights blinking and the tire changing equipment out. Police later said that Ennis was shot in the head.
Cosby was buried on January 19, 1997, in Shelburne, Massachusetts, after a funeral held at the family’s property.
Police Arrest Autumn Jackson, Cosby’s Alleged Love Child
Just two days after Ennis’ murder and one day before his funeral, authorities arrested Autumn Jackson, 22. She claimed to be the love child of Shawn Berkes and Bill Cosby and threatened to go to the tabloids unless Cosby forked over $40.0 million. She was later sentenced to prison for extortion.
Bill Cosby later provided a blood sample and challenged Autumn Jackson to take a DNA test to determine paternity. Attorney Wanda Akin said that such a test was not in Jackson’s best interests.
The arrest of Autumn Jackson opened up the 1974 affair Cosby had with Berkes, and forced Camille to deal with it publicly, at the same time she was mourning the death of her son Ennis.
Camille Cosby: “We Are a United Couple”
At the time, Camille issued a statement, “All old personal negative issues between Bill and me were resolved years ago. We are a united couple,” she said. “What occurred 23 years ago is not important to me except for the current issue of extortion.”
Camille and Bill are indeed a united couple. In the decades since Jackson was arrested for extortion, Camille has steadfastly defended her husband against allegations that he sexually assaulted dozens of women.
In 2014, after more than 15 women came forward claiming the disgraced comedian sexually assaulted them, Camille released a statement saying that Bill had been the victim of accusations: “The man I met, and fell in love with, and whom I continue to love, is the man you all knew through his work. He is a kind man… and a wonderful husband, father and friend.”
Camille Cosby Goes on the Attack
Camille was also on the defensive. As more and more women came forward to accuse Bill of sexual assault, she lashed out at the media, saying the accusers received “a pass”
“There appears to be no vetting of my husband’s accusers before stories are published or aired. An accusation is published, and immediately goes viral.”
Adding, “We all followed the story of the article in the ‘Rolling Stone’ concerning allegations of rape at the University of Virginia. The story was heart-breaking, but ultimately appears to be proved to be untrue. Many in the media were quick to link that story to stories about my husband — until that story unwound.”
“None of us will ever want to be in the position of attacking a victim. But the question should be asked — who is the victim?” Camille concluded.
Two years later, in a 2016 deposition, she refused to answer questions about whether or not Bill was faithful to her. We already know that Camille was aware that Bill had at least one affair, but she still stuck by his side, and invoked spousal privilege.
Bill Cosby’s June 2017 Trial for Sexual Assault
In June 2017, Bill Cosby went to court to face accusations that he drugged and sexually assaulted Andrea Constand at his home in 2004.
Keshia Knight Pulliam, who played his daughter Rudy on The Cosby Show, attended the opening statements, but Camille was nowhere to be seen.
In fact, Camille Cosby didn’t attend the trial and only showed up on the day the verdict was read.
Camille Cosby Lashes out after Mistrial
Camille remained silent throughout Bill Cosby’s June 2017 trial. He was charged with three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault stemming from the 2004 incident with Constand. In fact, she only showed up for the closing argument. It didn’t go well.
In his closing arguments, Cosby’s lawyer, pointed to Camille, who was sitting in the front row, “When you dance outside your marriage, you got to pay the band,” he said about Cosby’s admitted affairs. “And he danced and she deserved better.”
Camille sat there, and didn’t flinch.
After six days of deliberations, the judge declared a mistrial. It is not officially known how the jury was divided.
But one jury member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that 10 of the 12 jurors thought Bill Cosby was guilty on the first and third felony count, and only one juror thought he was guilty on the second count.
After a mistrial was declared, Camille’s silence vanished.
In a fashion reminiscent of the 2014 allegations of sexual impropriety, Camille issued a blistering attack on the judge, prosecutors, and the media.
Statement From Mrs. Camille Cosby pic.twitter.com/nfBF92BpN1
— Bill Cosby (@BillCosby) June 17, 2017
District Attorney Kevin Steele, who vowed to retry Cosby, did not respond to Camille’s vitriolic statement. Instead, he called Andrea Constand “courageous.”
“She is a positive person and has kept all of us going while waiting for the jury to come back,” he said. “She will continue to cooperate with us and I look forward to her getting a verdict in this case.”
Bill Cosby’s April 2018 Retrial
In another twist of tragic fate, just two months before Cosby’s April trial, on February 23, it was reported in that Ensa Cosby, the couple’s daughter, died from renal disease (a condition that impairs kidney function). A donor kidney was found and a transplant surgery was in the process of being scheduled when she passed away unexpectedly at Massachusetts General Hospital. She was 44.
Many wondered if Camille Cosby would put on more of a united front, and show up in court when her husband was retried for sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in April 2018. Now that the trial came to a close and Cosby was found guilty, will Camille and Bill remain a united couple?
According to one unnamed family insider, the recent death of Ensa strained the couple’s marriage to the breaking point; claiming, that Bill’s sex scandals played a role in Ensa’s declining health. Ensa was also allegedly upset at how the recent allegations of sexual assault made Camille suffer.
On April 26, Cosby was convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault, which could give him a sentence of up to 30 years. As he awaits sentencing, he is confined to his home.
Camille Cosby’s Message to the Media
One week after the world learned of Bill Cosby’s guilty verdict, Camille took to Facebook with a message about her husband’s case. In her post, she commented on the media’s portrayal of Bill, Constand’s accusations, as well as the district attorney and his team.
She believes that the media violated the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments in the U.S. Constitution “with their frenzied, relentless demonization of [Bill Cosby] and unquestioning acceptance of accusers’ allegations without any attendant proof.” Both articles call for all U.S. citizens to be given equal protection to “life, liberty, and property;” with the Fifth Amendment adding that citizens have the right to due process protection.
In what she called “mob justice,” Camille wrote that “an innocent person has been found guilty based on an unthinking, unquestioning, unconstitutional frenzy propagated by the media and allowed to play out in a supposed court of law.” She contended that Andrea Constand’s testimony was “perjured,” and did not honestly or accurately depict the events of that night.
Camille added that “unproven accusations” against her husband “evolved into lynch mobs” that besmirched Bill Cosby’s name before he even went to trial.
Questioning the honesty of accusers in general, Camille Cosby referenced the 1955 case of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American male who was accused of sexually assaulting a white woman, seemingly as a comparison to her husband’s case. Decades after Till was abducted, beaten, and lynched to death, the woman admitted in 2008 that her testimony was false.
Feeling as though Bill’s defense team successfully proved, thanks to a witness, that the allegations against the disgraced comedian stemmed from the accuser’s hopes of financial gain, Camille turned the spotlight on the district attorney. Calling the D.A. and his team “corrupt,” she wants them criminally investigated for her tenet that they used her husband’s case to get ahead in their respective careers.
“Someday,” she concluded, “the truth will prevail, it always does.”