The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

Local News

December 27, 2006

Hank fans mourn

Hank fans mourn loss of historic landmark

OAK HILL — On a murky New Year’s morning 54 years ago, a baby blue Cadillac eased into a Pure Oil gas station, bearing the corpse of country-western music’s biggest star.

Just where Hank Williams died — and exactly why — remains a mystery that feeds his legend.

For years, fans of the Alabama-born troubadour sought to turn the old station, resembling an English cottage with its trademark clay tile roof and blue-and-white color scheme, into a museum to honor him.

All that failed when Oak Hill’s city council couldn’t come to terms on the lease, so the owner decided to raze the landmark structure. Crews leveled the decaying structure two weeks ago.

“I’m really devastated,” said Ralph Moore, a Lineville, Ala., resident who has authored two books on Williams.

“It’s just hard to imagine how the town of Oak Hill could allow something like that to happen. I believe the children and grandchildren of those people who are responsible for letting that happen will be ashamed of their grandpas and grandmas down the road.”

Williams was en route to Canton, Ohio, for a comeback concert, traveling the backroads of West Virginia in that pre-interstate era.

His chauffeur, Charles Carr, then 18, was adamant in a (Beckley) Register-Herald interview on the 50th anniversary of the ill-fated ride that Williams was still alive when they lit out from Bluefield. He stopped outside Oak Hill at a popular eatery and was unable to rouse Williams, then drove into town looking for assistance.

Moore and another Alabaman, Bennie Gardner, who lives in Montgomery, not far from the singer’s hometown, made several trips to West Virginia with caravans following mile by mile the “Final Journey,” and to plug for a museum at the station.

“When I first came on that lot and saw that station about 12 years ago, it was just overwhelming that it had survived all these years, with the progress going on around it,” he said.

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