Roberta Dawson married Albert “Al” Atkins in 1972, when she was a schoolteacher and he was working as an adjunct professor at the local university. They’d met through a local singles group, and friends remarked upon how much Al seemed to delight in utterly dominating Roberta when they were together. The scion of a wealthy family with an education to match, he fancied himself a professor even though, as an adjunct, he was teaching lower-level classes at a far lower salary. He offered financial security, though, thanks to his family, and Roberta was all too happy to take it after the death of each of her parents within 6 months had completely drained her own funds as well as her parents’ estate.

Their first child, a stillborn girl, arrived in 1973; a second, another daughter, was born in 1974. The Atkins’ second daughter died at the age of five in 1979, having reportedly drowned during a pool party. By then, Al’s parents had died and left the money to his children with him as executor; with their daughter dead, Al and Roberta inherited the entire estate, though neither of them stopped working, reportedly due to the distaste they had for one another. There were even rumors that Al had only entered into the marriage for that selfsame inheritance, as his parents’ will shows that they had a rather low opinion of his ability to handle money.

After Roberta’s children’s books began selling, however, Al seems to have undergone a remarkable reversal. Family friends say that they saw him less and less, but that when they did see him he appeared to have lost weight and to be very attentive, even submissive, to Roberta. They thought that his wife’s success had finally cowed him.

Al Atkins was seen less and less as his wife became better-known, and by the time of the 60 Minutes interview in 1985 he was refusing to be photographed or interviewed. He died in 1990 and was cremated and scattered without fanfare; the plot that held his two children with space for their parents was never used.

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