Long before Dr. Jill Biden was in the running to become America's next First Lady, she was picking up a cold call from a suitor named Joe Biden. "How did you get this number?" was the first thing she said when the then-senator rang her up in 1975.
Joe's brother gave him the idea to reach out, but when he called Jill (née Jacobs), she was getting ready to go on another date. "You said, 'Do you think you could break your date?'" Jill recalled in a video for the Democratic National Convention. And she did. "I called and told the guy I had a friend in from out of town, and went out with Joe."
"How did you get this number?"
Those were the first words I spoke to Joe when he called me out of the blue on a Saturday in 1975.
I’ll be speaking tonight at the #DemConvention. I hope you’ll tune in! pic.twitter.com/t0amDEM2kT
— Dr. Jill Biden (@DrBiden) August 18, 2020
The senator "wasn't big on the whole date scene" after suffering a personal tragedy years prior. In 1972, his first wife, Neilia Hunter Biden, and their one-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident, turning his and his sons' lives upside down. But "when I met Jill, I fell in love with her when I saw her," he said.
The politician also made an impression on Jill, a teacher and University of Delaware graduate. "I was a senior, and I had been dating guys in jeans and clogs and T-shirts, he came to the door and he had a sport coat and loafers, and I thought, 'God, this is never going to work, not in a million years,'" she said in an interview. "He was nine years older than I am! But we went out to see A Man and a Woman at the movie theater in Philadelphia, and we really hit it off." When they got home, Joe shook Jill's hand goodnight and she called her mother to say, "Mom, I finally met a gentleman."
Joe was eager to spend more time with Jill. "He said, 'I'd really like to see you again,'" she recalled in the DNC video. "So he's looking at his calendar and he's [saying], 'Oh, Thursday … no, no, I'm really busy. … No, I'm busy Friday. … How about tomorrow?' And I thought, Buddy, you just blew your cover."
In his memoir, Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics, Joe said that his and Jill's relationship was "easier" when the prospect of marriage wasn't on the table. "She was just starting her own career," he wrote. "I think it was easier for her in the beginning of our courtship when I wasn't thinking about marriage. We both just liked having fun with somebody again, and she wanted to keep it that way." He also waited to introduce her to his sons, Hunter and Beau Biden, but they hit it off right away and were even included in some of the couple's dates.
Joe proposed five times. Jill explained that she was hesitant to accept the proposals at first because of how attached she had become to Joe's two sons. "I loved the boys so much. I had to be sure that it had to be forever." But the kids loved Jill too. Joe recalled the young siblings telling him one morning, "Dad, we think it's time we married Jill."
The final time Joe proposed, Jill said, "Okay." And the Bidens married on June 17, 1977, at the United Nations Chapel in New York City. In 1981, they welcomed their daughter, Ashley Biden, and their family was, as Jill put it in the DNC video, "complete." The couple have been through a lot together in their 40-plus years of marriage, from welcoming five grandchildren, to running multiple presidential campaigns, to becoming the vice president and Second Lady, to, tragically, losing their son Beau to brain cancer in 2015.
This year, with their eyes set on the White House, Jill is continuing to support her husband on the campaign trail, but she also plans to continue teaching if she becomes First Lady. (She kept her day job as a professor as Second Lady as well.) The former vice president said, "I've never, ever doubted that anything she set her mind to, she could do."
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