Jackie Witte: The Story of Paul Newman’s First Wife

Jackie Witte was Paul Newman’s First Wife with whom he had 3 children

Paul Newman’s enduring love story with Joanne Woodward is etched in Hollywood history, but before Joanne, there was Jackie Witte. Jackie was Paul Newman’s first wife, a fact that often escapes public awareness. Born in September 1929, she and Newman embarked on a nine-year journey of matrimony from 1949 to 1958. The couple’s union, marked by three children – Scott Newman, Susan Kendall Newman, and Stephanie Newman – predates Paul Newman’s rise to fame.

Jackie, tall and blonde with dark eyes, shared a common aspiration with her future husband: acting. Their paths converged when Paul, a Navy veteran at 24, met 19-year-old Jackie. Their love story began in a small town, where they both worked on a summer stage production.

Their shared aspirations led them to Woodstock, Illinois, where they continued their theater pursuits. The culmination of their journey was a December 27, 1949 wedding, marking Jackie Witte as the first Mrs. Newman.

Paul and Jackie welcomed their first child, Scott Newman, in 1950. Tragically, Scott’s life met a premature end in 1978 due to a drug overdose. Amid the joys and sorrows, Susan Newman and Stephanie Kendall Newman joined their family in 1953 and 1954, respectively.

Speculation surrounded their hasty marriage, a common conjecture being an impending pregnancy. However, their first child arrived after they had tied the knot. Instead, they were youthful lovers eager to embark on life’s journey together.

The couple’s path took an unexpected turn when Jackie Witte’s pregnancy coincided with Paul Newman’s departure from Yale University, where he pursued a master’s degree in theater. Jackie’s acting aspirations took a back seat as she grappled with raising three children while her husband pursued his career. The changing dynamics foreshadowed the challenges their relationship would face.

Introducing Joanne Woodward

The arrival of Joanne Woodward marked a turning point. Paul Newman’s leading role in the movie “Picnic” alongside Joanne Woodward initiated a decline in his marriage to Jackie. Paul’s absence due to work commitments and Joanne’s demands intensified the strain on their relationship.

Amidst the changing dynamics, Jackie Witte’s role underwent a transformation. A friend observed the shift: “Paul is friendly and outgoing, while she is shy and quiet. Like Joanne, he likes to hang out with writers and actors late at night. Paul and Joanne were both very attractive people with a lot in common and a strong sense of friendship. But you seldom saw Jackie.”

The Aftermath of Paul Newman’s First Marriage with Jackie Witte

Jackie Witte’s life took an unexpected turn as she navigated the complexities of her relationship with Paul Newman. Despite their changing relationship dynamics and Newman’s growing connection with Joanne Woodward, the couple remained married, projecting an outward image of contentment.

Jackie Witte’s journey ultimately led her away from the limelight. After her marriage to Paul Newman came to an end, she retreated from public view and chose a life of quiet anonymity. Jackie passed away in 1993 at the age of 64, her personal life shrouded in secrecy much like her marriage to Paul Newman.

In the annals of Hollywood history, Paul Newman’s legacy remains intertwined with the golden aura of his marriage to Joanne Woodward. However, the presence of Jackie Witte in his early life adds a layer of complexity to his narrative.

As Paul Newman once acknowledged,

“I was probably too young to make my first marriage work.”

The tale of Jackie Witte, the woman who shared those early years, serves as a reminder that life’s journey is often marked by unexpected twists, hidden stories, and untold chapters.