Hank Williams: Only One Recording Exists of the Country Icon’s Funeral in 1953

by Katie Maloney
(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Sixty-eight years ago today, Hank Williams passed away from a heart valve malfunction while heading to a holiday concert in Ohio.

The country legend was only 29 years old at the time. Hank Williams’s family held a ceremony for him in Alabama and the procession drew thousands of people to Montgomery. 25,000 people gathered to pay their respects and mourn the loss of the country music star. The gathering set the Montgomery record for most people gathered.

“On this day in 1953, the largest funeral for an Alabama citizen took place as Hank Williams was laid to rest,” the caption reads. The photo that accompanies the caption is an old newspaper clipping. There are hundreds of people that surround the funeral procession. Underneath the image, the writing reads, “Last rites for Hank Williams – Hank’s funeral drew the largest crowd ever to attend any funeral in Montgomery. The funeral was held in the city auditorium in order that more people might attend but the crowd had to wait that cold January day.”

Williams’s band, the Drifting Cowboys, provided music. And a number of musicians performed in his honor including Ernest Tubb, Red Foley, Roy Acuff, and the Statesmen Quartet. Obviously, not all 25,000 people could go inside the city auditorium for the funeral service. So, organizers broadcasted the service to the streets via a PA system. After over 60 years since the funeral, many thought the sermon was lost. However, because of advances in technology, a recording of Hank Williams’s funeral was restored and released. Listen to the full recording in the video below.

Hank Williams’s Grandson Hated The Country Legend’s Movie

Seventy-four years ago, Williams wrote the famous country gospel song, “I Saw The Light.” The song was so successful, that “I Saw The Light,” became the title of a film about Williams. The 2015 film stars Tom Hiddleston as Williams and highlights his life and rise to fame. Tom Hiddleston even sang Williams’s songs for the movie. Audiences seemed to like the film. However, Hank Williams III, Hank’s grandson, was not a fan of Hiddleston’s portrayal.

“To do a Hank Williams movie the way it should be done you need certain aspects in the mix to make right,” said Williams III. “It goes way beyond having [an] American to play the role of Hiram Hank Williams Sr. for it to be somewhat natural, [it] needs to be [an] American from the South who has to eat, lived, and breathed these kinds of roles before to make a more respectable movie on Hank Sr.”

Despite the negative review from a family member, the movie did accurately portray Hank William’s significant influence on country music.