The story behind Hank Williams’ iconic 1952 prison photo

You don’t need a brain surgeon to know that Hank Williams was one of the original pioneers of country music.

He was one of the first artists to bring mass popularity to the genre in such a short space of time. He tragically died in 1952 at the age of 29 after a long battle with alcoholism and drug abuse.

His drug problems stemmed from a debilitating back pain he had been suffering from for quite some time, which ultimately led to his being fired from the Grand Ole Opry.

Though he was fired from country music’s biggest stage for his addiction, the move only sent him further down a downward spiral that led to a 1952 arrest for public intoxication in Alexander City, Alabama.

A native of Alabama, Williams visited Alexander City frequently during his career and spent his time at Lake Martin.

According to his biography Hank Williams: The Biography, He was staying at the old Russell Hotel and after a long day of traveling and drinking, he started growing sugar cane, which annoyed other guests and staff.

He was subsequently arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct.

Alexander City Police Chief Winfred stated:

“I think he was more or less delirium tremens. He was pacing the hallway of the Russell Hotel screaming that someone was beating up old ladies and that he would stop them.”

A few hours later, it was reported that Darwin Dobbs, who had hosted Williams and his buddies at the Lake Martin Lodge, posted $25 bail and paid the $10 fine to free the country singer, which was about time , on which the iconic picture of Williams standing shirtless outside prison was taken.

After Alex City viewthis photo hangs in Deputy Chief Jay Turner’s office:

“Everyone who lived here heard the story that he was in prison here. But finding this paperwork reveals a lot about what happened in his life.”

WSFA confirms that the jail cell also has a carving of Hank’s own name on the wall, along with a drawing of himself in a cowboy hat. While we’re not sure how long he was in prison, he was there long enough to do some prison cell murals.

The prison is now closed.

However, Alexander City legend has it that it was after that night that Williams was inspired to write his hit song “Kaw-Liga,” naming the song after the local community in the area called Kowliga, and performing it shortly thereafter, on September 23 1952, recorded.

Needless to say, the arrest foreshadowed what was to come for the famous country singer. The story behind Hank Williams’ iconic 1952 prison photo

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