Conrad Chisholm: How Did Shirley Chisholm’s Ex-Husband Die?

Image Credit: Glen Wilson/Netflix

Netflix’s ‘Shirley’ recounts the trailblazing campaign of Shirley Chisholm in the Presidential race as she attempts something that had not been done before in the history of America. After making history by becoming the first Black woman in Congress, she decides to shoot for the stars and enrolls herself in the race for the 1972 Presidential elections. Of course, the road is long and hard, and because what she is doing is unprecedented, the chances of her success are not as good as that of her competitors. To take on such a mammoth task, Shirley requires all the support she can get, and she finds her biggest support in her husband, Conrad.

Conrad Chisholm Wholeheartedly Supported Shirley’s Political Ambitions

Conrad Chisholm was born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, to John and Zillah Chisholm. He was the fifth of twelve children of his parents and immigrated to America in 1946. He found a home in New York City, settling down in Harlem. He started working in Manhattan’s garment district and later found a job in an Automat. Soon, he met his future wife Shirley at Columbia University, and they got married in 1949 in “a large West Indian-style wedding.” The couple found a home in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. They tried to have children but had two miscarriages, and eventually, they never had children, especially with Shirley’s burgeoning political career.

Image Credit: Find a Grave Memorial

In 1951, Conrad graduated from the New York School of Investigation and started working as a private investigator. He was employed by a private security agency that specialized in “insurance claims for disability cases.” Conrad mainly worked with negligence-based lawsuits, and his work required him to travel a lot. He took a break from his job when his wife decided to campaign for the presidential elections.

With Shirley being completely invested in the campaign and being under immense pressure, Conrad took it upon himself to make sure that she was taken care of. He also served as her bodyguard during the initial phase of the campaign, being more focused on her safety after about three confirmed threats were made against her. Eventually, she was provided protection by the U.S. Secret Service, especially after other candidates also faced similar threats. Apart from this, he also served as the staff supervisor and researched Shirley’s speeches, though he did not write them.

Being the first Black woman to declare her candidacy and her ambition to become the President of the country was not seen as a good move by a lot of people in her own community. Many people thought that she was supposed to be taking care of her husband and her family and not fostering a career in politics. However, Conrad was not bothered by these comments, and he didn’t let the opinions of others define his support for his wife. Considering himself the official “morale builder” of the team, he said: “If you are a man and a mature man, you do everything to maintain your wife’s stardom.”

As good as things had been between Shirley and Conrad, their marriage didn’t last. In 1977, the couple got divorced. While Shirley married again, Conrad never remarried. He remained in New York while spending some time in the US Virgin Islands. He moved to Florida in the final years of his life. He died due to natural causes on November 27, 2009, at the age of 93, and is laid to rest at Hillcrest Memorial Park in West Palm Beach.

Read More: Why Did Shirley and Conrad Chisholm Divorce?