HANK WILLIAMS, THE LAST RIDE, PEOPLE & PLACES OF IMPORTANCE =====================================================================
Many or some would say what does it matter when and where did Hank die...
But I say that it matters a lot... Not too many people have the blessing of making it to the New Year. It is interesting to track down the history lane of those last moments, the Lost Highway. By using mathematical sense, laws of nature, distance traveled, this article will try to answer Hank's exact location and time of death.
- Retracing the Last Hours (scientifically): ---------------------------------------
December 30 1952:
11:30 AM - Charles Carr, 18, leaves his home on his way to pick up Hank who had two concert engagements in Charleston, WV December 31, and Canton, OH January 1. They leave Montgomery, AL, few hours later. In the meantime Hank visits radio DJ's. Hank attends local highway contractor's convention at a local where Hank had few drinks. They drive to the doctor to get Hank morphine shots. After smelling alcohol on his breath, first doctor turns him away. Then they set off for West Virginia on Highway 31. They travel through Birmingham to Knoxville.
Evening (Hour not certain): Hank arrives in Birmingham, checks at the Redmont hotel.
December 31 1952:
9:00 AM - Arrive at Chattanooga, the weather was bed and it was snowing.
10:30 AM The boys arrive at Knoxville. Carr calls Cas Walker at WNOX and tells him he would make an appearance on the "Mid-Day Merry Go Round," but he never showed up.
3:30 PM - Hank decided to catch a flight from Knoxville, TN, to make the Charleston, WV, show on time. They took off but plane turned back and landed in Knoxville at 5:55 PM due to the bad weather, most likely because of heavy fog in all of the area. They still hoped to make Canton show on time.
7:08 PM - About 7 PM they checked in at the 17-story Andrew Johnson hotel in Knoxville. Dinner & steak ordered, Hank did not eat much. Hank leaves the waiter a 50$ tip. Hank tells the waiter this is the biggest tip he will ever receive.
8:00 PM - Hank gets convulsive hiccups (symptoms which show that death was slowly but surely approaching), layes on the bad, later falling onto the floor.
9:00 PM - Charles Carr calls doctor Paul H. Cardwell who gives Hank two shots of morphine with vitamin B-12. Carr calls promoter A.V. Bamford, tell him Hank will not make the Charleston show on time.
10:45 PM - Hank leaves hotel, hoping to make New Year's Day concert on time or not get paid. Hank was carried to his car by porters.
January 1 1953:
Midnight - Close to midnight they were stopped by a state trooper Swan Kitts. They were near the dividing line between Knock and Grainger counties. There was little traffic, so they were probably speeding. Carr almost ran into a patrolman while trying to pass another car. The cadillac followed Kitts to the house of justice of the peace from Blaine to Rutledge, TN. Carr's fine should have been 25$. The judge asked him how much money does he have and Carr foolishly said 75$ and that's what he paid the thiefs. The officer knew there was a celebrity in the car and it was his duty to check on him, at least for a pulse.
2:30 AM - 3 AM - About this time they stop at Bristol, TN, on the corner of Moore and Sycamore streets, Charles talks to groggy Hank, buys some gas and then buys sandwitch at Trayer's Restaurant. It's possible around that time or a little bit earlier Hank takes a couple of (hydro) chloral hydrate pills and washes them down with Falstaff beer. Chloral hydrate slows down the heart rate, when mixed with alcohol, just like with other serious drugs, produce undesired side effects. It's safe to conclude he took some of those pills. Also bottles of the beer used to swallow those pills were found on the Cadillac's floorboard.
3:00 AM - 3:30 AM - Carr obtains a relief driver, Donald Surface. Some say it was in Bristol. However, Carr claims it was in Bluefield, WV. This is wrong. Carr (or others) claim he paid him off in Princeton. But that is impossible. Bluefield to Princeton is only 13 miles. That's about 20 minutes of driving. Surface worked for Bluefield Cab Corporation but Bluefield Cab might have had stations in other nearby cities as well. A little before that Carr & Surface stop at Dough Boy Lunch in Bluefiled, which was open all night. By most accounts Bluefield was the place where Carr picked up Surface but this was the place where Carr picked up a coke and sandwich. Carr remembers Hank was awake in Bluefield. This is wrong. Hank might remember Hank alive in Bristol. Rigamortis does not set in until at least 2 hours after death, most of the time it's after 3 hours if it's cold rigamortis can set in in about half anhour, however, Hank was covered with warm blanket.
5:00 AM - About this time in Princeton, WV. Carr could have paid Surface and let him off. (Charles said he slept for at least 2 hours)
5:30 AM - Oak Hill; Carr pulled in the parking lot of Burdette's oil. Carr notices Hank is not responding, his blanket had slid off his frame. His hand was positioned on his heart. He was cold and stiff. Rigamortis definitely set in.
6:00 AM - Carr drives Hank's lifeless body to Oak Hill general hospital. The staff immediately recognizes that Hank is dead. They say: "There's nothing we can do for him, he is just dead!"
7:00 AM - Hank Williams is officially pronounced dead. No tests for chemical substances were performed (I guess it was New Year and they simply did not want to bother. But that's even better for Hank's image). Only presence of alcohol had been noted. The Official cause of death: Heart simply just stopped.
- Hank's last song he was working on, the lyrics "And Dear"
is it possible he knew he was dying and he wrote these lyrics after midnight January 1st ? Was it found clinching in his hands or did he write that song before he left on this faithful trip ?
- Retracting Last Places, Locations of Importance: -------------------------------------------------------
It's easy to assume they were on the road at least a total of
4 hours before Hank died, between Knoxville to Bluefield but that's a wrong notion. Let's keep in mind the car was not on the move all the time. The approximate arrival time below reflects the possible arrival time in 1952:
Knoxville to Bluefield is 217 miles. Approximate arrival time today would be 3 hours, 20 minutes. At the time, the roads were empty, it's safe to assume the blue caddilac could travel at least 50 miles per hour. But because of darkness & weather, it's hard to know the average speed of the vehicle. Adding additional 30 minutes to the average arrival time would be a reasonable thing to do.
Knoxville to Blaine (where Carr was ticketed by a cop) is 23-25 miles. Approximate arrival time is 35 minutes.
Knoxville to Bristol is 115 miles. Approximate arrival time is 2 hours, 30 minutes.
The total distance from Knoxville to Canton is 500 miles. Approximate arrival time is 10 hours. (may be less if using highways)
Between 11 pm when they left the hotel in Knoxville to Oak Hill is 270 miles. Approximate arrival time is 4 hours, 15 minutes.
Bristol to Bluefield is 108 miles. Approximate arrival time is 2 hours. (In Bristol Carr hired relief driver and paid him off in Princeton)
Princeton (where Surface was let go) to Canton is approx 290 miles. Bluefield to Canton, OH, is 300 miles. Approximate arrival time is 5.5 hours. If Hank survived the night and made it to Canton, OH, his destination arrival would have been around 9 AM. Enough time to get ready & get sober for the afternoon 3 pm concert & matinee.
Bluefield to Oak Hill, WV, is 65 miles. We need to deduct 13 miles between Bluefiled to Princeton, that gives us about 50 miles. Approx arrival time is 1 hr. If Carr let Surface go at 5:30 AM in Princeton, this would match the scenario. Carr hired him around 3 AM, let him go at 5, realized Hank is dead at 5:30, drive him to the hospital at 6 AM, the distance and timing match.
Montgomery, AL, to Oak Hill, WV is 610 miles. (Hank's total distance of the last ride) TODAY, approximate arrival time would be 9 hours.
Montgomery to Charleston, WV, is 680 miles. Approx arrival time is 11 hours.
Montgomery to Canton is 845 miles. Approx arrival time is 13 hours.
A little after 3:00 AM, Hank dies. Rigamortis set in before 5 AM,
some say he was dead for no longer than 3 hours, when he arrived in the hospital at 6:00 AM. The doctor said he could not have been dead up to 6 hours. And even if that's the case, he did not die before 1 AM, January 1. By calculating the distance traveled from town to town, taking into account Carr's testimony, it is safe to assume Hank died around or at 3 AM on a lost highway between Bristol and Bluefield.
Well, there you have it folks, I hope you enjoyed the article.
Don't forget to read my article on Hank's last poem-song "And Dear..." he was working on, on his last journey. If Hank made it to his last January 1 concert I wonder if they had plans to record it or if some fan planned to bring hidden camera or may be someboudy might have recorder it ? By 3 pm, Hank would have been sobber and of sound mind. Below I am including information on the people who were associated with Hank on his last ride:
- The Lost Highway, The Last Ride's People of importance: -------------------------------------------------------------
Charles Carr - 18 year old student, son of Hank's friend who owned car/limo rental. Paul Cardwell - the doctor who administered morphine shots, B-12 vitamins to Hank. Doctor Paul died in 1984. Swan Kitts - the cop who stopped Charles Carr for traffic 'violations'. Trayer's Restaurant - a restaurant in Bristol, where Carr refueled, spoke to Hank, bought a sandwich. (he also bought sanwich with a code later on) Donald Surface - a relief drives Carr picked up in Bluefield. Dough Boy Lunch - A snack bar in the mining town of Bluefield. Carr says Hank was still alive when Carr bought a sandwich and a drink. Algisa Bonifactio - worked for Bon's Bon's, a store along Mount Hope, WV. She insists she remembers Carr buying a lemon drink for himself and sick Hank. Hmmm... now this confuses things, this makes it 3 stops in 3 different cities which are in vicinity just to buy sanwich and a coke ? Supposedly, Bristol and Mount Hope are located to each other. A Suburb ? Officer Howard Janney - the investigating officer into Hank's death insisted that Carr stopped at the Skyliner Drive-in restaurant's parking lot (In Oak Hill?) and spoke to employees asking for directions, probably to the hospital. Together with another officer Orris Stamey (so they claim) escorted Carr down the street to the hospital. Carr strongly disputes Janney's statements. He says he drove himself, unassisted, directly to the hospital. May be they arrived at the scene later or caught up with him when he was already approaching the hospital ? Pete Burdette - Owner of Pure Oil workshop station. Hank's car was kept there until somebody picked it up. Some time later Pete killed himself. It is alleged he took Hank William's cowboy hat from the car. Joe Tyree - Oak Hill's undertaker. Hank's body was taken to his funeral home. Diego Nunnari - Doctor who officially pronounced Hand dead at 7:00 AM. Iven Malinin - Intern doctor who performed autopsy on Hank.
Hank was buried on January 4th, he was reburied in the early morning on 1.17.1953,
so there is more space for people to visit his grave, also to accomodate future burials of his family members. It was done in dark to avoid confrontations with always present fans. In 1983 a tribute movie was made: Concert Hank never gave, an impersonator sang 23 songs Hank might have performed but in his condition, if he did survive 24 more hours, he'd not be able to perform more than half an hour! AT LEAST HANK MADE IT TO 1953!
And Dear... By: (Hank Williams 12/31/1952-1/1/1953) & L.J 2003/7 ----------------
We met, we lived, And dear, we loved. Then came that fatal day... By: Hank The love that felt so dear, Fades far, far away! And Dear... We met, we lived, And dear, we loved. The love that we felt so dear, Fades far, far away. By: L.J. And here dear, have no fear, I want you to listen dear....
Dear, I want you to hear... The love that felt so dear, By: L.J. Fades far, far away! Never again will be so dear, Never again will be so near!
By: L.J. 4/5/2007, All Rights Reserved!