The Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery, Montgomery County, pays tribute to the life and accomplishments of musician Hank Williams Sr. It was founded in 1999 by long-time fan Cecil Franklin Jackson (1936-2010), who also led other efforts to commemorate Williams.
Hank Williams Museum Since his childhood, Jackson had been an avid fan of Hank Williams. He first met Williams in 1944 when Jackson was just eight years old, at a service station near his childhood home located in the Lightwood Community of Elmore County. For most of Jackson’s adolescence he idolized Williams, and he took up the guitar and learned how to play Hank Williams songs. As an adult, Jackson played an influential role in a number of celebrations of Williams’s accomplishments. He helped to erect the Hank Williams statue that now stands in Montgomery, about one block north of the museum, and he founded an international fan club to bring awareness of Williams’s musical influence to an international audience. Jackson also led the effort to establish the “Hank Williams Memorial Lost Highway,” which covers a 65-mile stretch along Interstate 65 from Georgiana, Butler County (the location of Williams’s boyhood home), south to Montgomery.
Hank Williams’ Cadillac Jackson’s signature accomplishment, the Hank Williams Museum, opened its doors on February 8, 1999, in Montgomery’s Union Station building. A few years later, the museum moved to its current location, a 6,000-square-foot facility on Commerce Street. It houses items ranging from Hank Williams memorabilia that Jackson collected as a child and adult to items that the museum acquired either by purchase or donation. One of the center pieces of the museum is Williams’s 1952 baby-blue Cadillac in which he died at age 29 sometime in the morning of January 1, 1953, during a trip from Montgomery to Canton, Ohio. Williams bought the car used on July 17, 1952. He received a bank loan for $3,818.18 and agreed to monthly payments of $212.12 for 18 months. The title was not mailed to Williams until January 22, 1953, three weeks after his death. The original sticker price of the car was $5,083.95. The car was equipped with twin 4-barrel carburetors, a signal-seeking radio, optional oil filter, heater, and power steering, among other upgrades. Williams’s son, Hank Williams Jr. drove the car for several years including to high school. It was restored in 1985 and is on loan from Williams Jr. to the museum.
Hank Williams Museum Exhibit There are more than 30 display cases located in the museum with personal artifacts that belonged to Williams. These items include 17 suits as well as boots, hats, ties, awards, furniture, portraits, and even a horse saddle. There are three life-size portraits of Williams that came from the home he lived in with his first wife, Audrey. His Steinway piano and 1937 Gibson guitar and the microphone and stand Williams used during his last performance are all on display in the museum. Other items include his pearl handle pistol, slippers, shaving kit, camera, fiddle, high-school year book, birth certificate, and a pair of blue suede shoes. Dozens of Williams’s records along with his own vinyl collection line the walls of the museum. Jackson’s daughter, Beth Petty, has been the manager of the museum since its opening in 1999.
The museum is located at 118 Commerce Street in Montgomery. It is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. There is an entrance fee, with a discount for children. A gift shop sells books, clothing, jewelry, posters, and music. For people wishing to contribute to the museum, there is a “Friend of the Legend” program available that helps with museum fund-raising efforts. The museum sponsors events such as songwriting workshops and concerts for local musicians and holds an annual Hank Williams birthday celebration around September 17, the date of his birth.
Nearby attractions include the Historic Train Shed and Union Station (ca. 1897-1898), the Equal Justice Initiative Legacy Museum, Montgomery’s Riverwalk and Riverwalk Stadium, and the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre. In addition, there are many historical markers in the vicinity.