Hank Williams Memorial plaque at the Oak Hill Public Library
Front view of the Oak Hill Public Library. The plaque and column are visible in center foreground.
Detail of the plaque itself, dedicated in 1991.
A full view of the plaque and its stone column.
A portrait of Hank Williams Sr., who died at the age of 29.
A newspaper clipping, breaking the news of the singer's death.
Hank Williams' death certificate (West Virginia State Archives).
Backstory and Context
Williams, only 29 years old, still retained enormous popularity among his fans, however, and struck out on tour in winter of 1952-53. He was scheduled to play at the Municipal Auditorium in Charleston, West Virginia on December 31, 1952, but an ice storm in Nashville canceled his flight and the performance, prompting the singer to hire college student Charles Carr to chauffeur him directly to his upcoming New Year's Day concert in Canton, Ohio.
They never made it to Canton. Heavily under the influence of alcohol and a cocktail of painkillers, Williams died in the back seat of his Cadillac sometime after crossing the state line into West Virginia from Virginia. At some point, near the town of Oak Hill, Carr noticed that a blanket had slipped off of Williams, and the singer was unresponsive and cold to the touch. While accounts differ as to different places Carr may have stopped to seek help, it was at a gas station in Oak Hill that car encountered a policeman and, after taking Williams to the Oak Hill Hospital, the country icon was pronounced dead on January 1, 1953.
Efforts to memorialize the passing of Williams were few and far between, as Oak Hill's conservative, religious inclinations clashed with the hard-drinking lifestyle of "Hank Sr." Finally, on September 17, 1991, the anniversary of Williams' birth, fans and local residents dedicated a plaque purchased with private funds. Mounted on a square stone column, it is displayed on the lawn of the Oak Hill Public Library, across the street from the site of the gas station where Carr pulled over to check on Williams.
2. Lilly, John "Death of Hank Williams." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 12 June 2017. Web. 16 April 2019.