I visited on Jan. 2, 2013. One day after the 60th anniversary of Hank's death. I went wanting to connect and learn about a man that passed 10 years before I was born, but have grown up with his songs and I was not disappointed. Hank Williams Sr who had a big influence on Country & Western music and may, in fact, be the most influential of all times, is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama. Hank’s gravesite was voted as a Top Must-See place in Alabama by the followers of It Happens in Alabama.
Following the release of I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive, at the young age of 29, Hank passed away, in the back seat of a baby blue Cadillac, somewhere between Bristol and Oak Hill, Tennessee on New Year’s Day, 1953, on his way to play a concert in Ohio. It was reported he died of heart failure, possibly brought on by his use of morphine and alcohol to ease his life long pain from scoliosis. Because of his back, Hank was physically unfit to serve in World War II, when his entire band “Drifting Cowboys” was drafted.
His funeral was held at the Montgomery Civic Center Auditorium with an estimated 25,000 people crowding around the building outside listening as Roy Acuff, Red Foley and Ernest Tubb sang at the service.
Hank was originally buried on January 4, 1953 in the main part of Oakwood Cemetery, but his body was moved to its current location on January 17, 1953 to a spot that would later be big enough to accommodate the burial of other family members. The move had to be made during the night because there were so many visitors to the gravesite.
The gravesite features two white and gray Georgia marble monuments. Hank's stands in front of a marble replica of his cowboy hat and is inscribed with many of his hit songs. On the back of Hank’s monument is a letter from Audrey, (ex-wife).
The other grave belongs to Hank's ex-wife, Audrey Sheppard Williams, who died on November 4, 1975. Aubrey was not originally buried next to Hank. In 1983, Hank Williams Jr. and Lycrecia Williams (Hank's stepdaughter), had Audrey's body exhumed and buried in it’s current location, next to Hank. The back of Audrey’s monument is inscribed with notes from Lycrecia and Hank Williams, Jr.
Hank’s mother Lillian is buried between Hank and his older sister, Irene who passed away in her sleep, March 23, 1995 at the age of 73. Irene served as the original 'Drifting Cowboys' first booking agent.
Fans and tourists from all over the world stop by the gravesite every year, and many people attend ceremonies that are regularly held on the official anniversary of Hank Williams' death January 1st, as well as on his birthday, September 17th.
Country singer and songwriter, Alan Jackson wrote a tribute to Hank, called Midnight in Montgomery, which tells a tale of a memorable visit to Hank's gravesite.
'Cause it's midnight in Montgomery
Just hear that whippoorwill
See the stars light up the purple sky
Feel that lonesome chill
When the wind it's right, you'll hear his songs
Smell whiskey in the air
Midnight in Montgomery
He's always singing there
Because of this song, many fans and locals visit the grave around midnight. It is not unusual for cemetery custodians to find beer cans and liquor bottles, both empty and full, by the gravesite in the morning.
I will make sure I stop by and pay him a visit again. It is very peaceful and beautifully maintained.
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