The Mystery Encyclopedia

Mysterious Death of Hank Williams

Hank Williams Sr., born Hiram King Williams, died in Oak Hill, West Virginia on what has become known as the lonesome highway while in route to a New Year’s Day concert in Canton, Ohio. His death on January 1, 1953 has left many to speculate on the cause of death – officially heart failure as a result of long-term alcoholism and drug use; however, the suspicion arises from morphine injections by a hotel doctor and prescribed chloral hydrate pills issued by an unlicensed doctor.

Lonesome Highway – Death of a Troubadour

Hank Williams developed an interest in music while singing in the church choir. His mother played the piano for the church and fostered a love of music in her son. Lillie Williams, Hank’s single mother, purchased Hank a guitar and he learned to play by ear. He credited Rufus Payne as his only guitar teacher.

In 1937, Williams won a talent show and started playing guitar on the sidewalk in front of WSFA radio studio. This led to studio producers inviting Williams to play on the air. Again, these events led Hank to host his own 15-minute show twice a week. During the period prior to World War 2, Hank played with a band know as the Drifting Cowboys. After the other members of the band were conscripted into the draft, Hank began a solo career.

Hank William’s influence on country music continues and he is considered the “King of Country Music”. He’s inducted in both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. During his short career, he had 11 Number One hits and an many more Top Ten hits.

Lonesome Highway

By the end of 1952, Hank Williams suffered from the affects of untreated Spina bifida occulta, leading him to abuse pain killers such as morphine. This, coupled with his alcoholic nature, began a spiral of his career. Even though many promoters considered Williams to be unreliable, at the end of 1952 Williams was on a tour hoping to turn his career around. He was scheduled to play in Canton, Ohio on New Year’s Day, 1953.

Charlie Carr, a 17 year old college junior, was hired to drive Williams from Montgomery, Alabama to West Virginia; however, a snow storm and heaving icing prevented making a December 31 appearance. Instead, the pair headed to Ohio after a stop over to rest in Knoxville, Tennessee. Checking into the Andrew Johnson Hotel, Carr requested a doctor examine Williams. Since leaving Montgomery, Williams consumed a combination of alcohol and chloral hydrate. Dr. P.H. Cardwell gave Williams a concoction of Vitamin B-12 and Morphine. Because William’s appearance in Ohio contained a rider requiring damages be paid in the event he did not perform, Carr was instructed to drive through the night to Ohio.

Hank Williams Sr. was found dead in the back seat of his baby blue Cadillac by Charles Carr when he stopped to fill the gas tanks at a filling station in Oak Hill, West Virginia. Oak Hill is named as the place of William’s death; however, it is believed Williams died shortly after leaving Knoxville, Tennessee.

Why is this a Mystery

Citations

Kistler, M. (2002). The Real Hank Williams Story. Retrieved September 05, 2020, from https://www.tyreefuneralhome.com/who-we-are/the-real-hank-williams-story

Wikipedia contributors. (2020, September 2). Hank Williams. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:21, September 5, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hank_Williams&oldid=976391322