Update: July 20, 2017: Arnelle Simpson, O.J. Simpson’s oldest daughter from his first marriage to Marguerite Whitley, appeared at a parole hearing to testify on behalf of her father’s early release from prison. O.J. Simpson has served nine years of a nine-to-33-year sentence for armed robbery and kidnapping in 2007. Arnelle took the stand and said her father was “like my best friend and my rock.”
This story was originally published on June 10, 2016.
When you hear the phrase "O.J. Simpson's ex-wife," undoubtedly the woman who comes to mind is Nicole Brown Simpson, whose death sparked one of the most talked-about murder trials of all time. But before O.J. and Nicole's marriage, the football player was married to Marguerite Whitley.
Ezra Edelman's five-part documentary O.J.: Made in America will air on ABC and ESPN starting Saturday, June 11. The series looks at the events and circumstances surrounding Nicole's death, including backlash against the Los Angeles police and her relationship with O.J. But the first episode focuses on Simpson's life before his marriage to Nicole, when he was still a football star at the University of Southern California.
Before he earned the nickname "Juice" and America's adoration, Simpson played running back at USC. And before he was married to Nicole, O.J. Simpson was married to Whitley, with whom he fathered three children.
Simpson married Whitley in 1967. He was 19 at the time; she was 18. As one of Simpson's childhood friends explains in O.J.: Made in America, Simpson and Whitley met in high school, when Whitley was dating another one of O.J.'s friends, A.C. Cowlings. (Yes, that's the same A.C. from the Bronco chase with the LAPD.)
Simpson met Nicole Brown in 1977, while he was married to Whitley. Whitley and Simpson separated in 1978 and divorced in 1979. In 1985, he married Brown. Simpson and Brown had two children, Sydney and Justin, together. They divorced in 1992.
O.J.: Made in America uses archival footage of Whitley and Simpson to piece together their story. Edelman couldn't secure an interview with Whitley for the docuseries, as Business Insider explains. Whitley has largely avoided the public eye for the past few decades. In 1994, The New York Times reported that she "led a fairly quiet life," and the same appears to be true today. Whitley hasn't spoken publicly about the trial's verdict.
The Times also noted in 1994 that there were "no reports of violence" from Whitley during the couple's marriage. According to court documents, Simpson actually claimed that Whitley "threatened him with physical abuse, libel and slander, and to call the police," after he refused to leave the couple's home in Brentwood following their divorce, the Times reported.
Whitley entered a second marriage to Rudolph Lewis, a transit supervisor, in 1986, and they were divorced in 1991, according to the Times. In 1992, she married Anthony Thomas, who worked in furniture sales.
The New York Times' A.O. Scott best explains the difference between The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and O.J.: Made in America. Scott writes that the FX series "was pretty sure about what [Simpson] did, but it never quite figured out who he was." Edelman's project seeks to do just that. One behind-the-headlines story it seeks to tell is Simpson's first marriage to Whitley.