Cash was born Valerie June Carter in Maces Springs, Virginia. She was born into country music and performed with the Carter Family from the young 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 and Carl rejoined 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 "Thalheimers 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. She 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 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.
Ezra Carter declined Grand Ole Opry offers to move the family to Nashville, Tennessee a number of times because the Opry would not permit Chet Atkins to accompany the group. 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.
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.
June Carter Cash is best known for singing and songwriting, but she was also an author, actress, comedienne, philanthropist and humanitarian. Her acting roles included Mrs. "Momma" Dewey in Robert Duvall's 1997 movie The Apostle, and Sister Ruth, wife to Johnny Cash's character Kid Cole, on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-1997). June was also "Momma James," in The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James.
In 1962 she and Merle Kilgore wrote Ring of Fire. The song documents Carter's feelings of conflict arising from her relationship with Johnny Cash. 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 the comedic hit "No Swallerin Place" by Frank Loesser with her exaggerated breaths. 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 of course "Wildwood Flower."
She was married three times, first to honky-tonk singer Carl Smith from July 9, 1952, until their divorce in 1956. They had a daughter Rebecca Carlene Smith aka Carlene Carter. On November 11, 1957, she married a police officer Edwin "Rip" Nix and had a daughter Rozanna (Rosie Nix Adams). They were divorced in 1966. Both daughters became singers. Rosie Nix Adams died in 2003 in a bus from possible carbon monoxide poisoning.
In 1969, twelve years after they had first met backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, Johnny proposed to June during a live performance in London, Ontario, Canada. Their marriage spanned 35 years until June's death in May 2003. Rosanne Cash, June's stepdaughter, once stated that "if being a wife were a corporation, June would have been a CEO. It was her most treasured role." Roseanne also remembers that June loved flowers and often wore flowered things, and kept them all around her house.
June and Johnny had one child, John Carter Cash, who was born in 1970.
In 1967, she and Cash won a Grammy Award in the Best Country & Western Performance, Duet, Trio Or Group (vocal or instrumental) category for the song "Jackson." In 1970, they won again in the Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal category for the song, "If I Were a Carpenter."
June Carter Cash died in Nashville, Tennessee of complications following heart valve replacement surgery on May 15, 2003 at the age of 73. Johnny Cash died September 12, 2003, and June's second daughter Rosie passed away a month later.