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A photo of Edna Mae Holly, fromer wife of Sugar Ray Robinson.

A photo of Edna Mae Holly, fromer wife of Sugar Ray Robinson.
A photo of Edna Mae Holly, fromer wife of Sugar Ray Robinson.
A photo of Edna Mae Holly, fromer wife of Sugar Ray Robinson.
SKU: SCAN-NOP-00504828
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A photo of Edna Mae Holly, fromer wife of Sugar Ray Robinson. Edna Mae Robinson, the Cotton Club star who was once married to the boxing champion Sugar Ray Robinson, died in her home in Manhattan on Thursday. She was 86. The cause was complications of Alzheimer's disease, said her son, Ray Robinson II. Ernestine Holly was born in 1915 to a prominent Miami family, and moved to New York City when she was 5. Precocious on and off the dance floor, she graduated from high school at 14 and found work as a dancer, touring Europe with Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway in the 1930's. At the Cotton Club, in Harlem, she was known for dancing atop an enormous drum. In 1940, she met her future husband -- also a local celebrity -- silently and anonymously at a local pool. The up-and-coming boxer Walker Smith Jr. -- soon to be nicknamed Sugar Ray Robinson after his borrowed identification card and smooth fighting style -- could not help noticing the preening young woman as she sauntered poolside. So he pushed her in. Edna Mae, who could not swim, was not impressed. But she gave Mr. Robinson a second chance at a Harlem nightclub some months later, when they were formally introduced. They were married in 1943. During their 19-year marriage, while Mr. Robinson became a five-time world middleweight champion, Mrs. Robinson stopped performing to travel with her husband. She encouraged his natty style and shared his penchant for flash as they spent and gave away Mr. Robinson's $4 million in winnings. (The couple drove a flamingo-pink Cadillac.) In the 1950's, they owned businesses covering much of Seventh Avenue from 123rd to 124th streets, including Edna Mae's Lingerie Shop and Sugar Ray's Cafe. After the couple divorced in 1962, she revived her show business career, appearing in television variety shows, cabaret productions and, briefly, on the New York stage in an all-black version of ''Born Yesterday.'' She never remarried. Mr. Robinson died in 1989. Mrs. Robinson is survived by her son and five grandchildren.

Photograph details
SizeText 7.2" x 9.5"


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