If you lived in the 20th century and were a fan of country music, then some of your favorite songs were probably those of Hank Williams. Hank broke into the mainstream in the 1940s with his song “Lovesick Blues”. In a short time, he was active in music, Hanks made a big impression. Unfortunately, alcoholism and drug consumption ended his life much too early. He died in 1953 at the age of 29.
His music influenced the careers of musical greats like the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Perry Como, Dinah Washington, and Bob Dylan. His son, songwriter, and singer Hank Willams Jr. continues to preserve his legacy. About a decade after his death, Hank Williams was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2010, he was posthumously honored with the Pulitzer Prize, a special award and citation for his key role in transforming country music. The biographical film “I Saw the Light”, made in 2015, is about the life of Hank Williams.
Hank Williams Biography (Age)
Hank Williams was born on September 17, 1923, in Mount Olive, Butler County, Alabama, the third child of veteran Elonzo Huble “Lon” Williams of English descent from World War I and his wife Jessie Lillybelle “Lillie” (née Skipper). Their second child had died, which made Hank their second child next to his oldest sister Irene.
Hank was a Freemason, his father named him Hiram after Hiram I of Tyre, one of the three founders of Freemasonry. But after the name was misspelled as Hirian in his birth certificate, his parents changed the name to Hank. Hank was born with Spinal Bifida, an incurable defect in a child’s spine that remained with him until his death.
Hank’s father suffered fatal injuries in a truck accident that later led to facial paralysis, which kept him employed at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Alexandria, Louisiana for 8 years. As a result, he was absent for most of Hanks’ childhood. Hanks’ mother Lille had to take several jobs to support her two children.
While his family lived in Georgiana, Alabama, Hanks met street artist Rufus “Tee-Tot” Payne, who began giving Hanks guitar lessons in exchange for meals cooked by his mother or money. Hank Williams proved to be a quick learner and began attending talent shows. He then caught the attention of the WSFA radio studio producers, who invited him to play on air. He performed twice a week and received a weekly scholarship of $15. With the money, Hank founded his winning band Drifting Cowboys and the rest is history.
Hank Williams, who was called the king of country music, was great in what he did, but unfortunately, he couldn’t keep his appetite for alcohol together, and soon it was his end. Williams, who was born with spina bifida, is said to have used alcohol to suppress back pain. Unfortunately, his alcohol abuse affected not only his emotions, as expressed in a number of his songs, but also his health.
The alcoholism led to his being dismissed from the Grand Ole Opry, which considered him unreliable. In the early 1950s, his declining health became apparent. In 1951, he suffered a minor heart attack, a period during which he gained more and more weight with hair loss. On December 30, 1952, Williams collapsed in his hotel room in Knoxville, Tennessee.
The following day he was to perform at the Municipal Auditorium in Charleston, West Virginia. After the collapse, Williams received permission to travel but was unable to travel by plane because of an ice storm that shook Nashville that day. He then hired a college student named Charles Carr to drive him to the concert venue in his powder-blue 1952 Cadillac.
When he arrived in Oak Hill, West Virginia, Carr looked for Williams after he had been quiet for a while and then discovered him lying in the back seat when he stopped responding. Wiliams was later confirmed dead. An autopsy was performed on him, and the results showed that he died from bleeding in his heart and neck.
Hank Williams was buried in Montgomery, Alabama on Sunday, January 4, 1953. His funeral was considered the largest event ever held in Montgomery and the largest event for a citizen of Alabama.
Hank Williams’ Family, Wife, and Children
Hank Williams’ family life was turbulent for most of his short life. At the age of 20, he began dating a woman named Audrey Sheppard who had just left a bad marriage that produced a child. Williams married her on 15 December 1944, when she was not yet legally divorced from her ex-husband.
In view of the complications that her marriage entailed, her relationship was inevitably problematic. Year after year they grew further and further apart, with Williams’ alcohol problems only making the situation worse. On May 26, 1949, Williams and Sheppard named their first child, Hank Williams Jr. On May 29, 1952, the couple was divorced.
A month later Williams started living with his mother and soon began a relationship with Billie Jean Jones Eshlimar, who would later become a country musician herself. They married on October 18, 1952, and like his first wife, Billie Eshlimar was about to divorce her former husband. They had a daughter, Jett Williams, who was born on January 6, 1953, five days after Williams’ death.
Both children of Hank Williams are actively involved in music. Williams Jr. not only sings but is a multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, keyboard, harmonica, and saxophone. He is married and has two children, Hank Williams III and Holly Williams, who are both active musicians.
Hanks’ posthumous daughter Jett Williams was adopted by her paternal grandparents after her birth. They renamed her Catherine Yvonne Stone, and after her grandmother died a year later, she was adopted by an Alabama couple who renamed her Cathy Louise Deupree. Although Jett knew she was an adopted child, she did not know who her biological parents were until the end of her twenties.
With the help of investigating attorney Keith Adkinson, Jett managed to get the court to decide that she was indeed the biological daughter of Hank Williams. There was bad blood between her and Hank Williams Jr. who opposed the court’s decision that Jett was entitled to half of her father’s estate. Despite his appeal, the verdict remained in place because the court dismissed the appeal in 1990.