Hank Williams Memorial.

Hank Williams, Dead Here

Field review by the editors.

Oak Hill, West Virginia

Just before dawn on New Year's Day, 1953, a baby blue Cadillac pulled into the Pure Oil gas station on the south end of Oak Hill. In the back seat lay country music superstar Hank Williams, dead maybe an hour, probably from an accidental overdose of morphine and whiskey. He had been on his way from Tennessee to Ohio to play a New Year's Day gig, but died in the dark some time after crossing the West Virginia state line. His driver hadn't noticed.

Hank Williams fans wanted to mark this spot for posterity. Some local citizens, however, didn't want Oak Hill to be remembered as the death site. According to the Beckley Register-Herald, Oak Hill is "an area where ultra-conservative values conflicted with [Hank's] rambling lifestyle and reputation as a boozer."

After 50 years had passed, a group of private donors were finally allowed to erect a bronze plaque on a rock pedestal on the front lawn of the town library, across the street from the gas station. It features a raised portrait of Hank in his iconic cowboy hat, and mentions nothing of his death, but states that Oak Hill was where Hank "made his last stop on his last tour."

Hank Williams' fans also wanted to turn the old gas station into a museum, but the family that owned it refused to sell it to the city unless the city paid an exorbitant price. The city refused. So the family brought in a backhoe and bulldozer and leveled the gas station on December 13, 2006, leaving only an empty lot to mark the spot.

It's the kind of story that Hank Williams could have written a good, sad song about.

[Thanks to tipster Judy Lively for information that helped improve this Field Review.]

Also see: Death Car | Funeral Site Statue | Astroturf Grave

Hank Williams, Dead Here

Oak Hill Public Library

Address:
611 Main St. W., Oak Hill, WV
Directions:
South edge of town. On the east side of Hwy 16/Main St. W., in front of the Oak Hill Public Library. Look for the flagpole and the concrete slab empty lot on the other side of the street.
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Skyline Drive-In: Hank's Last StopSkyline Drive-In: Hank's Last Stop, Hilltop, WV - 2 mi.
Coal Mining Ghost TownCoal Mining Ghost Town, Thurmond, WV - 4 mi.
Mystery HoleMystery Hole, Ansted, WV - 11 mi.
In the region:
Muffler Man - Bunyan, Richwood, WV - 38 mi.

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October 21, 2017

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