The Lesser-Known Truth Of Joe Biden's First Wife Neilia Biden

Even after 47 years of marriage to First Lady Jill Biden, whom he affectionately refers to as the love of his life, President Joe Biden still remembers his late first wife, Neilia Biden, fondly. "No man deserves one great love, let alone two," he declared during an appearance on Jay Shetty's "On Purpose" podcast. "The two women that I married, one passed away, were women I knew when I went out with them the first time, I wanted to marry them," he recalled. As for his meet cute for Neilia? They both met while on spring break in the Bahamas. (Certainly a far cry from how Jill and Joe met – a meet cute orchestrated by Joe's brother.) The legend goes that the future prez eyed Neilia from across the pool, and the rest is simply history. "Basically I fell a** over tin cup in love — at first sight. She was so easy to talk to," Biden penned in his candid 2007 memoir, "Promises to Keep."

As you may recall, Neilia, along with their three shared children, Beau, Hunter, and their infant daughter, Naomi, suffered a terrible car accident. Sadly, Neilia and Naomi succumbed to their injuries. Enter Joe Biden's tragic real-life story. Despite the fatal accident, the President and many others have worked hard to make Neilia's lasting legacy known to all — including all of the lesser-known truths about his late wife. 

Neilia Biden was behind Joe Biden's political career

While many revere President Joe Biden for his strong political prowess, he has always credited his late wife, Neilia, for his stellar start in politics. "She was the brains. Also she prevented me from blowing my top when I got angry late in the going," he told USA Today about his first senate campaign. Later on, in his memoir "Promises to Keep," he explained that it was she who instilled confidence in him. "Once I had Neilia with me, it became more of a plan than a daydream. Nobody outside my family believed in me the way Neilia did; seeing myself through her eyes made anything seem possible," he penned.

Alas, it appears she was the brains for her husband in more ways than one. In the confines of his memoir, Joe revealed that Neilia also played an integral role in helping him obtain his law degree from Syracuse University College of Law by taking notes and creating study sheets. "Her study sheets were so detailed and the mnemonic devices she invented so clever, that I cruised through the exams in torts and criminal law," he gushed.

Neilia Biden was an excellent teacher

Although Neilia Hunter moonlighted as the brains behind her hubby's ambitious political career, she also had some professional aspirations of her own. The name of her game? Teaching. The story goes that Hunter graduated from Syracuse University in 1964 and promptly got a job teaching English at Bellevue Heights. But make no mistake about it — Neilia wasn't just any old teacher. Many of her former students have fond memories of her with the same common thread: she really cared about their well-being. 

Former student Patricia Smarzo told the Daily Orange that Neilia took students to task for bullying her. "Since I was a kid in school, there have always been bullies. There always will be. But there will always be teachers out there that will take you under their wing and say, 'It will get better,'" Smarzo reflected. Meanwhile, another student, Patricia Cowin Wojenski, told the publication how Neilia was there for her when her mother was dealing with serious health issues, often walking her home from school and lending a listening ear. "[Neilia] must have seen something in me which, I don't know what it was, that she felt that she needed to be in my life, and I really appreciated that," she recalled.

Neilia Biden was humble

Despite her strong intellect and teaching abilities, those who knew Neilia Biden are adamant that she was never one for the spotlight. Since Neilia's tragic death, Syracuse has continued to find ways to remember her. Cayuga Community College grants a literature and journalism award in her name each year. In 2010, Syracuse City School District established a memorial at the entrance of Bellevue Elementary School in her honor, complete with a plaque with the words, "In Loving Memory of Neilia Hunter Biden: Beloved Teacher and Mentor."

Still, those who knew Neilia Biden are adamant that she was never one for the spotlight. "Every time I walk by that stone, I look at it and I just think 'Wow, you would be so shocked that you have this little spot here for you.' Because she was just so humble," Neilia's former student Patricia Cowin Wojenski told the Daily Orange. "She never did anything for a pat on the back. She just did it because that's how she was."

Neilia Biden was kind

Neilia Biden was also kind. "I never met anyone who didn't like Neilia," then-Senator Joe Biden said in 2002, according to He also went on to describe her as "incredible" and noted that she was just as kind as she was beautiful. But that's not all. As reported by USA Today, while speaking at a memorial following her death, Joe told the crowd that Neilia "had a principle — she treated everyone the same and that worked both ways. Those who were poor, Black, minority, affluent or socially esteemed, she made no distinction among them."

"[Neilia] just didn't have a mean bone in her body," Kevin Coyne, a man who grew up in the house next door to the Bidens, told the Daily Orange. Even the local Syracuse paperboy, Bill Christopherson, had his own tales of Neilia's kindness. According to Christopherson, when the weather turned bitterly cold, she would often invite him inside her home and serve him hot cocoa to warm him up. 

Neilia Biden inspired Beau Biden to attend Syracuse University Law School

Even long after her tragic death, Neilia Biden was still influencing her sons and their big decisions. The story goes that Beau Biden accompanied his father, then-Senator Joe Biden, during a visit to Syracuse University. "It was one of those rare sunny, sunny late winter days [in Syracuse] when you get a taste of spring," Beau later recalled, according to Much to Beau's surprise, he happened upon a photo of his mother as homecoming queen hanging at the school and he immediately made up his mind. He would attend the same university for law school. 

In 2011, Beau delivered a commencement speech to Syracuse University's graduating class. At the top of his address, he mentioned his mother and his family's strong ties to the school. "It is literally part of my family's foundation," he declared. Sadly, on May 30, 2015, Beau died at the age of 46 due to a glioblastoma tumor — yet another tragic detail about the Biden family.