On This Day: Merle Haggard Receives Honorary Doctorate from Cal State Bakersfield in 2013

by Evan Reier
Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

When Merle Haggard was a young man, there’s no way he could ever believe he’d be a doctor one day. At least an honorary one.

After all, the country legend famously sang in “Mama Tried,” that he “turned 21 in prison, doing life without parole.” It wasn’t until the early 1960s that he shook up the popular music scene with his tales of life as an outlaw that anything besides a life of crime was especially on the table.

But in 2013, “the Hag” received an honorary doctorate from that Cal State Bakersfield after a lifetime studded with achievements. The university’s School of Arts and Humanities officially presented Merle Haggard with the honor. Alongside Haggard’s honors, legendary country singer and songwriter Buck Owens was also honored.

Per Bakersfield.com, CSUB president Horace Mitchell discussed the legendary contributions of Merle Haggard.

“Merle Haggard is an American icon and living legend,” said Mitchell, also calling him a “professor of the common man.”

Haggard then spoke, highlighting his roots in California and his appreciation for the honor.

“On behalf of those with the Bakersfield Sound, we appreciate this,” Haggard said. “Thank you. It’s nice to be noticed.”

Merle Haggard was the tenth recipient of the honorary doctorate from CSUB. He joined other famous musicians like Neil Young, Herbie Hancock and Ravi Shankar in receiving the award.

Widow of Merle Haggard Remembers Legend on Birthday

Some may not realize that Merle Haggard passed away on the same day he was born, April 6. The country legend sadly passed in 2016 after complications from pneumonia. Five years on, his legacy is strong, but his presence is missed.

No one knows this better than Theresa Ann Lane, the widow and final wife of Haggard. When April 6 rolled around a couple months back, she penned a beautiful tribute to the Hag.

“Hello fans and friends, Theresa here. Today is the day Merle Haggard was born and the day that he died,” she said. “Not too many people actually die on the day they were born, but he called it. He is missed every day by our family. I was blessed to have known him for 25+ years, an experience I will never ever forget.”

The post discussed his legacy, and to remind folks that April 6 is officially Merle Haggard Day in Tennessee. So keep that in mind for 2022.

“I know he is missed by so many people throughout the world,” Lane continues. “His music touched many hearts and continues to do so every day.”

There was truly no one like Merle Haggard.