The Death Of Hank Williams

Hank Williams death remains somewhat of a mystery to this day. The exact cause of death, and what happened in the last 48 hours of his life will perhaps never really be known. But in the end it doesnt really matter, Hank Williams was dead at 29 years old. Here I have tried to tell the story as briefly as possible using information from a number of sources. Everything here has been contested by someone or another at some time or another. But in general this is pretty much what supposedly happened.

On December 30, 1952 Hank Williams loaded up his '52 Cadillac with his guitar, stage suits and other things he would need for this short tour that would take him up through West Virginia and Ohio. At around 11:30am Charles Carr, a 19 year old college freshman Hank had hired to drive him, left his mothers boarding house on N. McDonough St. in Montgomery, Alabama. Hank was wearing dark blue pants, a white button up shirt, a tie and a navy blue overcoat. It was unseasonably cold over the south that day as a snow storm covered the entire southeastern united states.

The two drove around Montgomery for a while, visiting radio DJ's, and someone talked Hank into attending a local highway contractor's convention at a local hotel where Hank more than likely had a few drinks. After that, Hank had Carr drive him to his doctor to get a shot of morphine to ease his back pain for the ride to Charleston, WV. Smelling liquor on Hank's breath, The doctor turned him away. Hank then went to another doctor and received his shot. Then, sometime in the early afternoon, the two set off for West Virginia on Highway 31 which would carry them through Birmingham and Knoxville, TN.

Charles Carr remember Hank in good spirits along the way, talking and singing as they drove north to Birmingham, about an hour and a half north of Montgomery. The two would spend the night of December 30th 1952 at the Redmont in Birmingham. The snow storm made further travel that evening difficult if not impossible. Within thirty minutes of checking into the hotel, several women found their way into Hank's room. Hank reportedly asked the girls where they were from to which one replied "Heaven". Hank then told her that she was the reason he was going to hell. The women eventually left and Hank had Charles order them meals from room service.

The two checked out of the hotel and continued their journey north early that next morning. It was during this time somewhere along the way that Hank bought some type of alcohol. By the time they made it to Chattanooga, it was snowing. By the time they made it to Knoxville, around 10:30am it was obvious Hank was not going to make it to Charleston by showtime unless he was able to fly. They proceeded to the airport and found there was a flight leaving out at 3:30pm. Hank had Charles Carr book the flight and also had him make a phone call to Cas Walker at WNOX and tell him he would make an appearance on the "Mid-Day Merry Go 'Round", but he never showed up.

The flight departed at 3:30pm but was turned around due to the bad weather. The plane landed back on the runway shortly before 6:00pm. Charles Carr checked himself and Hank Williams into the Andrew Johnson Hotel in Knoxville at 7:08pm. Hank was reportedly helped to his room by two porters. Carr ordered two steaks and recalls that Hank ate a little of his as he layed on the bed. Later falling onto the floor.

Hank called for a doctor after he started having hiccups that were sending his body into mild convulsions. Dr. P.H. Cardwell arrived shortly thereafter and administered Hank two shots of Morphine mixed with vitamin B12. Charles Carr called promoter A.V. Bamford to let him know they would not be making it to Charleston. Bamford told Carr to make sure they made it to Canton for the matinee show at 2:00pm January 1. With that information, Charles Carr had the porters carry a lifeless Hank Williams down to the car. As they carried Hank, he started making what the porters described as wheezing sounds. They disregarded rattling in he breath and bundled him in the back seat of his cadillac, laying his arms across his chest in a V position and covering him with his overcoat. Charles Carr left Knoxville for Canton at 10:45pm. In all likelyhood Hank had died shortly before then in a bed at the Andrew Johnson Hotel.

An hour after leaving Knoxville, Carr was stopped near Blaine, TN by patrolman Swan Kitts. Charles Carr had tried to pass somone and almost hit Kitts cruiser as he entered the oncoming lane. Carr explained to Kitts that he was driving Hank Williams to an engagement in Ohio and could not afford to be late. Kitts noticed something did not seem right about Hank and asked Carr about his condition. Carr told him he had been drinking and was given a sedative. Kitts decided not to disturb Hank but had Carr follow him into Rutledge, TN. There he was arraigned and charged $25.00 for wreckless driving. At 1:00am Charles Carr left Rutledge continuing on to Canton.

Having drove now for almost 24 hours non-stop Carr was growing tired. He stopped in Bristol, TN and picked up a relief driver named Donald Surface. Surface drove for a while and Charles Carr claims he dropped him off and paid him somewhere in West Virginia. Perhaps Bluefield or Princeton where he had stopped for coffee. At some point early that new years morning, Charles reached back to pull Hanks coat back over his body, when he did he noticed Hanks hands were cold to the touch and when he tried to move them they snapped back across his chest to the position the porters had put him in at the hotel. Around 5:30am Charles Carr pulled into Burdette's Pure Oil Station telling the men working at the time there was a problem. They tried to wake Hank but to no avail, they told Carr the hospital was only six miles from the station.

Charles Carr drove the cadillac to the emergency room entrance where two orderlies picked Hank up by the armpits and feet and carried him into Oak Hill Hospital Emergency Room. Hank was pronounced deat at 7:00am January 1, 1953 by Dr. Diego Nunnari. The doctor concluded Hank had probably died some six hours earlier, but he could not determine the time of death with any certainty. Hanks body was then taken across the street to the Tyree Funeral Home where an autopsy was performed. Dr. Iven Malinin who performed the autopsy was a Russian intern who spoke almost no english. His report noted needle marks in Williams' arms, bruises on various parts of the body, a welt on his forehead and hemorrhages in the heart and neck. The official cause of death was attributed to acute right ventricular dialation, an unusual conclusion, meaning that his heart just stopped beating. Traces of alcohol but no drugs were found in his blood, probably because they hadnt looked for them.