By DAVID WRANGLER
Hiram King "Hank" Williams was an American singer-songwriter and musician regarded as one of the most significant country music artists of all time. Williams was born with a mild undiagnosed case of spina bifida occulta, a disorder of the spinal column, which gave him lifelong pain—a factor in his later abuse of alcohol and drugs. In 1951, Williams fell during a hunting trip in Tennessee, reactivating his old back pains and causing him to be dependent on alcohol and prescription drugs. This addiction eventually lead to his divorce from Audrey Williams and his dismissal from the Grand Ole Opry.
Williams was scheduled to perform at the Municipal Auditorium in Charleston, West Virginia. Williams had to cancel the concert due to an ice storm; he hired college student Charles Carr to drive him to his next appearance, a concert on New Year's Day 1953, at the Palace Theater in Canton, Ohio. In Knoxville, Tennessee, the two stopped at the Andrew Johnson Hotel. Carr requested a doctor for Williams, who was feeling the combination of the chloral hydrate and alcohol he consumed on the way from Montgomery. A doctor injected Williams with two shots of vitamin B12 that contained morphine. Carr talked to Williams for the last time when they stopped at a restaurant in Bristol, Virginia. Carr later kept driving until he reached a gas station on Oak Hill, West Virginia, where Williams was discovered unresponsive in the back seat. After determining that Williams was dead, Carr asked for help from the owner of the station who notified the police. After an autopsy, the cause of death was determined to be "insufficiency of the right ventricle of the heart."
Tributes to Williams took place the day after his death. His body was initially transported to Montgomery and placed in a silver coffin shown at his mother's boarding house. The funeral took place on January 4 at the Montgomery Auditorium, where an estimated 15,000 to 25,000 attended while the auditorium was filled with 2,750 mourners.