Why Did Cicely Tyson Leave Her First Husband, Kenneth Franklin?

Cicely Tyson is known for her incredible acting work, as she’s been in TV shows, movies, and theater productions for decades. Sadly, she died on Jan. 28, 2021. But she’ll forever be remembered for her legacy and famous relationships. Tyson was married to famous musician Miles Davis, but prior to Davis, she tied the knot with Kenneth Franklin. Here’s why Tyson ended up leaving Franklin behind.

Cicely Tyson met Kenneth Franklin through her church

Cicely Tyson in a scene from the CBS television program 'East Side/West Side' on May 24, 1963
Cicely Tyson in a scene from the CBS television program ‘East Side/West Side’ on May 24, 1963 | CBS via Getty Images

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Tyson wrote all about her relationships in her memoir, Just As I Am. And her first serious relationship with Franklin helped shape her life. She wrote in her book about how she first met Franklin at church after the pastor introduced the two of them. She was just 17 years old.

“Kenneth had been on my mother’s approved list even before she’d seen him,” Tyson wrote. “He checked the only box that seemed to matter to her: He was the offspring of a reverend.”

Kenneth later asked Tyson out, and she accepted, though she knew in her heart he wasn’t the right one for her. They then began dating, but Tyson’s life was quickly turned upside-down after a visit to his house.

“Our caressing grew more intense and he lifted my dress,” she wrote. “I recoiled slightly, but before I could back away, he was inside me.” This incident ended in pregnancy for Tyson, and she decided to keep the baby.

Tyson noted she was never in love with Franklin and unexpectedly left him

Cicely Tyson in 1972
Cicely Tyson in 1972 | Jeff Goode/Toronto Star via Getty Images

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Once Tyson’s pregnancy was well-established, the next thought on her mind was marriage — and she knew she was expected to tie the knot with Franklin. “In many ways, that question had also already been answered, because Mom had long ago since decided that Kenneth was the One for me,” she wrote. The two married in 1942 when Tyson was just 18.

“I do recall that Kenneth wanted our child, however unexpected her arrival,” Tyson wrote. “I also remember that he never proposed to me. He didn’t need to. Our future had been cemented on the evening he’d lifted my dress.”

As the following year came around, Tyson noted that she started to feel intense regret over her marriage. “I hadn’t ever been in love with Kenneth,” she wrote. “In fact, I had no desire to be married, period, and I’m sure he could feel that.” Finally, when their daughter was 2, Tyson left Franklin.

“Ahead of my departure, I did not tell Kenneth I was leaving the marriage,” she added. “I knew it would shatter him, and it did.”

Tyson said her marriage to Miles Davis had what her previous marriage lacked

Cicely Tyson and Miles Davis circa 1983 in New York City
Cicely Tyson and Miles Davis circa 1983 in New York City | Robin Platzer/Images/Getty Images

While Tyson wanted to escape her loveless marriage to Franklin, she eventually found what she was looking for with Davis. She wrote in her book how her blossoming relationship with Davis was “everything I’d imagined it would be — and all that my connection with Kenneth had lacked. There was love. There was devotion. There was understanding. And in our embrace, there lived an enduring connection.”

Unfortunately, Tyson cut off her marriage with Davis as well. The two wed in 1981 and officially divorced in 1989. And it all had to do with Davis’ relentless infidelity.

“Miles kept right on messing with this woman when I traveled, and the maid kept right on divulging the details,” Tyson wrote of the first cheating incident. “The two had the nerve to be hooking up in my bed, on my sheets, in an apartment that my decades of toil in this business had bought and paid for.”

Despite everything Tyson went through in her life, she left behind an incredible legacy no one will ever forget.

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