June Carter Cash

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Valerie June Cash (Carter)

Also Known As: "Smith", "Nix"
Birthplace: Maces Spring, Scott County, Virginia, United States
Death: May 15, 2003 (73)
Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, United States (Complications from heart valve replacement surgery)
Place of Burial: Hendersonville, Sumner County, Tennessee, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Ezra J. Carter and Maybelle Carter
Wife of Johnny Cash
Ex-wife of Carl Milton Smith and Edwin Lee 'Rip' Nix
Mother of Carlene Carter; Rosie Nix Adams and John Carter Cash
Sister of Helen Carter and Private

Occupation: singer/songwriter, musician, actress, comedienne, dancer, author
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About June Carter Cash

Valerie June Carter Cash (born Valerie June Carter on June 23, 1929 – May 15, 2003) was an American singer, dancer, songwriter, actress, comedienne and author who was a member of the Carter Family and the second wife of singer Johnny Cash. She played the guitar, banjo, harmonica, and autoharp and acted in several films and television shows.

Early life

June Carter Cash was born Valerie June Carter in Maces Spring, Virginia to Maybelle Carter and Ezra Carter. She was born into country music and performed with the Carter Family from the early age of ten, beginning in 1939. In March 1943, when the Carter Family trio stopped recording together after the WBT contract, Maybelle Carter, with encouragement from her husband Ezra, formed "Mother Maybelle & the Carter Sisters" with her daughters, Helen, Anita, and June. The new group first aired on radio station WRNL in Richmond, Virginia, on June 1. Doc (Addington) and Carl (McConnell)—Maybelle's brother and cousin, respectively— known as "The Virginia Boys," joined them in late 1945. June, then 16, was a co-announcer with Ken Allyn and did the commercials on the radio shows for "Red Star Flour", "Martha White," and "Thalhimers Department Store", just to name a few. For the next year, the Carters and Doc and Carl did show dates within driving range of Richmond, through Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. June later said she had to work harder at her music than her sisters, but she had her own special talent—comedy. A highlight of the road shows was her "Aunt Polly" comedy routine. Carl McConnell wrote in his memoirs that June was "a natural born clown, if there ever was one." She attended John Marshall High School during this period.

After Doc and Carl dropped out of the music business in late 1946, Maybelle and the sisters moved to Sunshine Sue Worklman's "Old Dominion Barn Dance" on the WRVA Richmond station. After a while there, they moved to WNOX in Knoxville, TN, where they met Chet Atkins with Homer and Jethro.

In 1949, Maybelle & The Carter Sisters, along with their lead guitarist, a young Chet Atkins, were living in Springfield, Missouri, and performing regularly at KWTO. Ezra "Eck" Carter, Maybelle's husband and manager of the group, declined numerous offers from the Grand Ole Opry to move the act to Nashville, Tennessee, because the Opry would not permit Atkins to accompany the group onstage. Atkins' reputation as a guitar player had begun to spread, and studio musicians were fearful that he would displace them as a 'first-call' player if he came to Nashville. Finally, in 1950, Opry management relented and the group, along with Atkins, became part of the Opry company. Here the family befriended Hank Williams and Elvis Presley (to whom they were distantly related), and June met Johnny Cash.

June and her sisters, with mother Maybelle and aunt Sara joining in from time to time, reclaimed the name The Carter Family for their act during the 1960s and 1970s.

With her thin and lanky frame, June Carter often played a comedic foil during the group's performances alongside other Opry stars Faron Young and Webb Pierce.

Career highlights

While June Carter Cash may be best known for singing and songwriting, she was also an author, dancer, actress, comedienne, philanthropist and humanitarian. Director Elia Kazan saw her perform at the Grand Ole Opry in 1955 and encouraged her to study acting. She studied with Lee Strasberg and Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. Her acting roles included Mrs. "Momma" Dewey in Robert Duvall's 1998 movie The Apostle, Sister Ruth, wife to Johnny Cash's character Kid Cole, on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993–1997), and Clarise on Gunsmoke in 1957. June was also "Momma James" in The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James.

As a singer, she had both a solo career and a career singing with first her family and later her husband. As a solo artist, she became somewhat successful with upbeat country tunes of the 1950s like "Jukebox Blues" and, with her exaggerated breaths, the comedic hit "No Swallerin' Place" by Frank Loesser. June also recorded "The Heel" in the 1960s along with many other songs. She won a Grammy award in 1999 for her solo album, Press On. Her last album, Wildwood Flower, was released posthumously in 2003 and won two additional Grammys. It contains bonus video enhancements showing extracts from the film of the recording sessions, which took place at the Carter Family estate in Hiltons, Virginia, on September 18–20, 2002. The songs on the album include "Big Yellow Peaches," "Sinking in the Lonesome Sea," "Temptation" and the trademark staple "Wildwood Flower".

Her autobiography was published in 1979, and she wrote a memoir, From the Heart, almost 10 years later.

Personal life

Carter was married three times and had one child with each husband. All three of her children would go on to have successful careers in country music.

She was married first to honky-tonk singer Carl Smith from July 9, 1952, until their divorce in 1956. Together they wrote "Time's A-Wastin'". They had a daughter, Rebecca Carlene Smith, aka Carlene Carter, a country musician.

June's second marriage was to Edwin "Rip" Nix, a former football player, police officer, and race car driver, on November 11, 1957. They had a daughter, Rosanna Lea aka Rosie, on July 13, 1958. The couple divorced in 1966. Rosie Nix Adams was a country/rock singer. On October 24, 2003, Rosie died on a bus from possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carter and the entire Carter Family had performed with Johnny Cash for a number of years. In 1968, Cash proposed to Carter during a live performance at London Arena in London, Ontario, and they married on March 1, 1968. They remained married until her death in May, 2003, just four months before Cash died. Carter and Cash had one son, John Carter Cash, who is a musician, songwriter and producer.

In 1970, Carter's distant cousin, future US President Jimmy Carter, became closely acquainted with Cash and Carter and maintained their friendship throughout their lifetime. In a June 1977 speech, Jimmy Carter acknowledged that June Carter was his distant cousin, with whom they shared a common patrilineal ancestor.

Carter was a longtime supporter of SOS Children's Villages. In 1974 the Cashes donated money to help build a village near their home in Barrett Town, Jamaica, which they visited frequently, playing the guitar and singing songs to the children in the village.


June Carter Cash died in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 15, 2003, of complications following heart valve replacement surgery, in the company of her family and her husband of 35 years, Johnny Cash who died less than four months later on September 12, 2003. At Carter's funeral, her stepdaughter, Rosanne Cash, stated that "if being a wife were a corporation, June would have been a CEO. It was her most treasured role." June and Johnny Cash are buried in Hendersonville Memory Gardens near their home in Hendersonville, Tennessee.


Carter and her future husband, Johnny Cash reached #2 on the US Country charts with their 1967 duet of "Jackson". Their performance won the 1968 Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Performance Duet, Trio or Group.

The two - now married - won the 1971 Grammy Award, for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group, for their 1970 duet "If I Were a Carpenter".

Carter Cash won the 2000 Grammy Award, for Best Traditional Folk Album, for her 1999 album Press On.

Carter Cash's last album, Wildwood Flower, was released posthumously in 2003. Carter Cash won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album, and she also won the while the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for the single "Keep on the Sunny Side".

Carter Cash ranked #31 in CMT's 40 Greatest Women in Country Music in 2002.

Carter Cash was inducted into the Christian Music Hall of Fame in 2009.

Film portrayal

June Carter was played by Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line, a 2005 biopic of Johnny Cash (played by Joaquin Phoenix). The film largely focuses on the development of their relationship over the course of 13 years, from their first meeting to her finally accepting his proposal for marriage. Witherspoon's portrayal led her to receive many awards for her role, including an Academy Award for Best Actress and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Witherspoon also performed all vocals for the role, singing many of June's famous songs, including "Juke Box Blues" and "Jackson" with Phoenix.

Country Singer, producer, author, actress. Born in Maces Springs, Virginia, on June 23, 1929, as Valerie June Carter, she was a member of the famous singing Carter Family. The Carter Family began recording country music in 1927 and continued until Maybelle's death in 1978. The Carter Family Singers included members like 'Mother' Maybelle Carter, Anita Carter, and Alvin Pleasant 'A.P.' Carter, and of course June who would go onto a successful singing career herself. In the 1950s she moved to New York to study acting at the request of Elia Kazan who discovered her while scouting movie locations in Tennessee. Also about this time she attended the premiere of "A Streetcar Named Desire" in the company of Elvis Presley, and sat with Elia Kazan and Tennessee Williams. In 1961 she turned down an offer to work on a variety show that had Woody Allen as one of the writers, but instead agreed to tour with the Man In Black, Johnny Cash, for $500 a week. On March 1, 1968, she married Johnny Cash, after he proposed on stage during a concert in London, Ontario, and remained married to him for 35 years until her death. She was previously married to country singer Carl Smith, who gave her a daughter, country singer Carlene Carter. In 1963 with Merle Kilgore, she co-wrote Johnny Cash's hit song "Ring Of Fire." A talented singer, songwriter, and musician, she recorded hits with her husband like "Jackson" and "If I Were A Carpenter" which both won Grammy Awards in 1967 and 1970. In 1972 they recorded duets like "It Ain't Me Babe" in 1964, and "If I Had A Hammer" in 1972. In 1979 she wrote her autobiography, "Among My Klediments" and released her memoir, "From The Heart" in 1987. In his 1997 autobiography, Johnny Cash described how his wife stuck with him through his years and abuse. In 1999 she released the album, "Press On" which followed in her musical autobiography, which told of her 31 year marriage and collaboration with Cash, which later won a Grammy, and was her first release in over a quarter-century. Also an actress she appeared in the films and television specials, "All My Friends Are Cowboys" (1998), "The Apostle" (1997), "Stagecoach" (1986), "The Last Days Of Frank And Jesse James" (1986), "The Baron And The Kid" (1984), "Murder In Coweta County" (1983), "Johnny Cash: Cowboy Heroes" (1982), "Johnny Cash: Christmas In Scotland" (1981), "The Unbroken Circle: A Tribute To 'Mother' Maybelle Carter" (1979), "Thaddeus Rose And Eddie" (1978), "The Gospel Road" (1973), and "The Country Music Holiday" (1958). On television she appeared in, "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman" "Little House On The Prairie" "This Is Tom Jones," "Hee-Haw," "The Adventures Of Jim Bowie," "Gunsmoke," and "Hollywood Squares," as a guest panelist in 1978. Also was in "Johnny Cash And Friends" in 1976, played 'Elaine "Cookie" Pollock Thomas Christopher' in 1962 on "The Edge Of Night" and played 'Amy Ames Britton Kincaid' in 1960 on "The Secret Storm." She was the mother of Carlene Carter, John Carter Cash, step-mother to Roseanne Cash, and god-mother to Hank Williams Jr. June Carter Cash passed away on May 15, 2003, at the age of 73, after suffering from heart problems at the Baptist Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, where she had been admitted on May 7. Her husband and family were at her side.

Additional information:

June Carter Cash was a fourth cousin of Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle. Jacob Butcher and his first wife Hannah Beverly were June's maternal third great-grandparents. Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle are descended from Jacob and his second wife Arta Dotson, their paternal third great-grandparents.

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June Carter Cash's Timeline

June 23, 1929
Maces Spring, Scott County, Virginia, United States
September 26, 1955
July 13, 1958
Madison, Davidson, Tennessee, USA
March 3, 1970
May 15, 2003
Age 73
Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, United States