Hank Williams died on New Year’s Day 1953, Montgomery funeral drew 20,000 mourners

Williams had married his second wife, Billie Jean Jones in October 1952, as 14,000 people looked on in Louisiana where Williams hosted radio shows after being fired from the Grand Ole Opry in August of that year.

Having only recently recorded what would become some of his best-loved songs — including ‘Kawliga’ and ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’ — Williams performed his final concert in Austin, Texas on Dec. 19, 1952. The newlyweds spent Christmas 1952 with Williams’s mother in Montgomery.

The day after Williams died, The Montgomery Advertiser recalled Williams as a former peanut vendor who learned to play guitar at age 6.
“The lanky guitar player with twangy voice began his musical career in Montgomery, singing over WSFA,” the newspaper reported.

“Alabamians mourned the death of ‘their Hank,’ expressing themselves to newspapers, radio stations and to relatives staying at the home of the star’s mother,” that report continued.

“Reporters answering telephoned queries concerning Williams’ death said many of the callers cried when informed that the reports were true.”

At cafes across the South, the paper added, his songs blared over radios as news of his death spread.

That night, the singer’s body was taken back to Montgomery. At his mother’s request, the concert in Canton went on as planned.

2 of 4
Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse