How Did Hank Williams Really Die?

I Saw The Light, the Hank Williams biopic, will be playing in theaters around the country on Friday (March 25). The story follows Williams’ country music career and the struggles that that went along with being a star including his battle with alcohol and infidelity. 

But, according to a new story from the New York Post, one of the biggest issues of debate about Williams’ life remained untouched by the movie: His mysterious death, something that the singer predicted less than 48 hours before he died.

On December 30, 1952, Williams was in bed at this Montgomery, Alabama, home with new wife Billie Jean. Billie Jean claimed that Williams couldn’t stop tossing and turning and said “I think I see God comin’ down the road.” Less than 48 hours later, Hank Williams was dead. His official cause of death was listed as heart failure, but there are many who say otherwise. 

“I think he had a profound sadness in him,” says Marc Abraham, writer and director of I Saw The Light. “Tom [Hiddleston, the actor portraying Williams] puts across that impending sense of doom. Hank felt there was something bad around the corner.”

While the official cause of death has been debated for more than 60 years, there is a timeline of events leading up to his death that those around him agreed upon. According to the New York Post, the singer, who suffered from back problems, was given a sedative before departing to a scheduled New Years Eve show in Charleston, West Virginia. College student Charles Carr had been hired to drive the “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry Singer” to West Virginia, but winter weather made it impossible to reach the venue. The concert was canceled and Carr and Williams instead stopped at the Andrew Johnson Hotel in Knoxville, Tennessee. 

“Williams had already been drinking when he was given a shot of B12 and morphine by the hotel doctor. Just before midnight, Carr set about getting Williams to a planned New Year’s Day show in Canton, Ohio. Most accounts have Williams looking and sounding groggy, and hotel porters allegedly had to carry him to the car. About six or seven hours later, on the morning of Jan. 1, 1953, Carr realized his passenger was dead and already beset with rigor mortis,” the New York Post writes. “When the singer’s death was announced to the waiting crowd at the Palace Theatre in Canton, they sang Williams’ ‘I Saw the Light’ in unison.”

Questions were immediately raised about the 29-year old’s death, with some saying that his body showed signs of a recent fight and others, including a police officer, claiming to have seen a soldier riding in the car with Williams. 

Some have suggested that Williams may have even died at the Andrew Johnson Hotel in Knoxville, and that Carr had unknowingly driven several hundred miles with a deceased Williams in the back seat. The possibility was even suggested in the initial police report. 

But, a Knoxville native who claims to have been a doorman at the Andrew Jackson Hotel shared a different story. He says Williams was conscious and joking when he left. And, Carr claims that he spoke briefly with the singer in the car after they left the Knoxville hotel.

The truth about Hank Williams‘ death may never be known. For that reason, the new biopic I Saw The Light opted to avoid the subject of Williams’ death. 

“I actually wrote 13 pages for that scene but took them out because they felt superfluous,” says biopic writer and director Marc Abraham. “To have a kid [Carr] turn around, feel his pulse and realize [Williams] was dead, it felt anticlimactic.”

Do you agree with the writer’s decision? 

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