Saturday, October 10, 2015

Skyline Drive-In: Hank's Last Stop

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About 6:30 AM on New Years Day, 1953, a Cadillac wheeled into the Skyline Drive-In after driving about two hours from Bluefield, near the Tennessee state line. Its driver got out, stretched his legs, used the restroom. When he returned he noticed that his back seat passenger, country music superstar Hank Williams, was stiff and cold. He was, in fact, dead -- having died some time during the drive from Bluefield, probably from an accidental overdose of painkillers and alcohol.
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Although no monument or memorial marks the site, the Skyline Drive-In still stands. Beneath the letters on its hand-painted sign, its owners have added, "Hank's Last Stop."
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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."
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