MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Charles Carr, who was just a college freshman when he drove country music legend Hank Williams on his final, lonesome journey six decades ago, has died.
The director of the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery, Beth Petty, said Carr, a retired investor, died Monday after a brief illness. He was 79.
Carr's son, Charles Lands Carr, said his father didn't talk much about being Williams' driver on that final trip, until late in his life.
Williams died at the age of 29 just before or on Jan. 1, 1953. He died during the night in the back of his 1952 blue Cadillac near Bluefield, W.Va., while he and Carr were on their way to a show in Canton, Ohio.
According to The Tennessean newspaper, which examined Williams' death in 2003, the country singer had taken a shot of morphine to ease his back pain on Dec. 30 and was carrying chloral hydrate, a sleep aid. Williams consumed alcohol the following day at a Knoxville, Tenn., hotel, where he also summoned a doctor and received two more morphine shots along with some vitamin B12, the newspaper reported.
Carr told The Tennessean that he spoke to Williams on a couple of occasions after they set off again, and that when they were pulled over by a police officer, Williams was sleeping. At some point in the drive, Carr learned that Williams had died and took him to a hospital.
Heart failure was listed as the cause of death.
"I called my dad and told him what happened, and then Hank's mother called me at the hospital," Carr told the newspaper. "One of the parting things she said was: 'Don't let anything happen to the car.'"
The Cadillac is on display in the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery.
Carr began to speak more about Williams' last ride after he became involved with the museum.
"When he was younger he didn't have an interest in being defined by that moment in his life," Lands Carr said. In later years, Lands Carr said the museum "embraced" his father, who became more comfortable talking about that trip with Williams.
"If they invited him, he made a point of being there," Lands Carr said of the museum.
Petty described Carr as a friend of the Hank Williams museum and as a man who "was always kind to fans of Hank." Petty said Carr never tried to profit from the fact that he was driving the country music singer on that last trip.
Carr was a friend of the Williams' family when the country singer asked Carr to drive him from Montgomery to a show in Charleston, W.Va., on Dec. 31, and a New Year's Day concert in Canton. They made it to Knoxville and attempted to fly to Charleston, but had to return to Knoxville because of bad weather, according to the Tennessean account. That's when they set out by car for Canton.
Carr's father owned a Montgomery cab company at the time.
"My father drove for them from time to time," Lands Carr said.
A funeral service for Carr will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at Leak Memory Chapel in Montgomery, with the burial following in Greenwood Cemetery. Visitation will be from 1 to 3 p.m. at Leak Memory Chapel.