1953 should have been a year of hope and promise for country legend Hank Williams. The singer-songwriter best known for penning classics like ‘Lovesick Blues’, ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’ and ‘Hey Good Lookin’, was on his way to play a show in Canton, Ohio on New Years Day when he suddenly died in the backseat of his baby blue Cadillac. He was only 29 years old at the time of his death.
Some reports mark his cause of death as a heart attack while other sources speculate that drugs and alcohol had to be involved in some kind of way but in all likelihood, his death was brought on by a combination of all of these factors.
According to his autopsy report, Hank’s death was likely caused by an insufficiency of the right ventricle of his heart and at the time of death, Williams had alcohol, barbiturates, amphetamines, morphine, and chloral hydrate in his system. Dr. Ivan Malinin, the mortician who performed his autopsy also noted that Williams had been severely beaten and kicked in the groin sometimes in the days leading up to his death.
Just five days after his death, a beautiful baby girl was born in Montgomery, Alabama. She was raised by her grandmother Lilian Stone before ultimately being passed between several hands before being adopted at the age of 3 by Louis and Wayne Deupree in Mobile, Alabama. Her new parents would name her Cathy Yvonne Deupree.
Many years later, she would embark on a painful and complicated journey to figure out who her real father was. She always had some kind of idea that her father was someone special but she was absolutely shocked to discover that her dad was actually the late great Hank Williams.
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Cathy Lived With 4 Families In Four Years
Cathy was shuffled around from one guardian to another before being adopted by the Deupree family. At first, she lived with her paternal grandmother Lillian Stone but after she too passed away in 1955, Cathy was deemed a ward of the state of Alabama and was put up for adoption.
Deupree, who now goes by the name Jett Williams gave a speech in 2002 at the Library of Congress where she recalled how she had four families before she was four, was orphaned three times, and had six different names. Her life seemed to be in a constant state of flux, drastically altered every time a lawyer, judge, social worker, or family member would pawn her off on someone else or change her identity with a stroke of the pen.
Jett Was Just 21 When She Realized Her Who Father Was
Jett was a junior in college at the University of Alabama where she studied recreation therapy. One day, her adoptive parents paid her a visit to give her $2,000 that what was held for her until her 21st birthday. The money was set aside by her deceased grandmother Lilian Stone when Jett was just a year old. It was alluded to that that the money was set aside per Hank’s request.
That was the first clue that she found that indicated that she just might be Hank’s daughter. Jett’s adoptive mother assured her that even though her suspicions were likely to be rooted in truth, there was nothing she could do about it without proof.
Jett wasn’t just about to give up. She had a hunch and she would stop at nothing to find out the true identity of her father. The search became her biggest obsession.
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Keep watching to find out out how Jett proved she was Hank’s daughter and what she’s been up to ever since.
Jett Found Out That Williams Had Planned On Taking Full Custody Of Her
Jett set out on a journey to uncover the truth about her past. She consulted stacks of legal documents and adoption papers and reached out to distant family members for clues. After getting in touch with Hank William’s cousin Marie Harvell through her uncle she was able to start putting the pieces together.
Through Harvell, she learned that her biological mother, Bobbie Jett, had been a secretary in Nashville when she got pregnant with Hank’s child just a couple of months before he married Billie Jean Eschliman. Despite the fact that the pregnancy was unexpected, Hank was committed to making sure that his child was taken care of. He promised to pay her medical bills and fly her out to California when she turned two so that he could take full custody of her.
Hank had never intended for his daughter to be adopted out. He had consented to a pre-birth custody agreement that would have ultimately have given him full custody of her if he hadn’t died.
She Had To Prove That Hank Was Her Father
After William’s death, a lot of obstacles got in the way of Jett proving that Hank was her father. Hank Williams Jr. wouldn’t acknowledge that he had a half-sister for many years. Jett’s legal battle pressed on for nearly a decade before the courts acknowledged her lineage.
Jett kept running into brick walls while trying to prove her case. She appeared before a probate court, circuit court, state supreme court, federal court, and the US Supreme court 5 times before she was able to prove her claim.
Jett lucked out when she met a lawyer named Keith Adkinson who managed to find documentation of William’s custody arrangement with Jett’s mom, although how he came across that paperwork has never has been revealed.
In 1985, Jett finally won her case when the Alabama State Court ruled that she was indeed Hank William’s daughter. The following year, Jett married Adkinson.
Jett Sings To Carry On Her Father’s Legacy
Throughout Jett’s journey to connect with her late father, she got real acquainted with her father’s music and learned how to sing herself. She made her professional debut in 1989 and following in her father’s footsteps played a show at Nashville’s historic Grand Ole Opry in 1993. She reached out to two of her father’s musical friends Jerry Rivers and Don Helms to play alongside her.
Jett will never get to connect with her father in the way that she ultimately would desire. Nothing will ever bring him back from the grave. She will never have memories of spending the holidays with him or sitting on his lap as a child but regardless she will continue to keep his memory alive to the best of her ability.
Hank would have wanted his daughter to have a good life. He would have been so proud to see her grow up to follow in his footsteps. Is she a country legend like her dad? Well, not quite, but she certainly puts her heart and soul into her music and does her best to channel Hank’s spirit when she plays shows.
Jet Fully Believes That Hank Williams Is Her Guardian Angel
When she was in her early 30s, she gave herself the name Jett Williams in memory of her birth mother Bobbie Jett and her father. In 1990 she published a memoir entitled Aint Nothing Sweet As My Baby which detailed her quest to find out the truth about her father. In 1995, she released an album titled That Reminds Me of Hank. It’s pretty clear, that her relationship with her father is a defining feature in her life, but she believes that her connection with her father goes beyond what people can see on the surface.
To Jett, Hank Williams is quite literally her guardian angel. She believes that he is always looking down on her, guiding her in her path.
Whether or not Hank is really protecting his daughter from the heavens is a matter of opinion, but one thing is for certain. Hank’s music will always be the tether that binds his spirit to his daughter.
For years Hank Williams Jr continued to refuse to acknowledge the existence of his half-sister despite the legal ruling. He believed that Jett was just an opportunist trying to cash in on his father’s name. Fortunately, he and Jett were able to reconcile their relationship in 1998 on what would have been their father’s 75th birthday. Hank would have never wanted to see his kids fighting for all of their lives.
In 2006 the Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling that Hank Jr. and Jett should both have sole rights to their father’s original recordings that he made for a Nashville radio station in the early 50s.
Polygram Records and Legacy Entertainment had previously staked the claim that the recordings which were made for the Mother’s Best Flour Show were fair game for them to release since Williams was under contract with MGM records at the time. Universal Music Nashville, has owned those rights since 1998.
In 2008, Time-Life released a collection of some of the Mother’s Best recordings in a three-disc compilation called Hank Williams: The Unreleased Recordings with Jett and Hank Jr’s approval.
Fletcher Keith Adkinson, Jett’s attorney, and husband passed away in 2013 at the age of 69.
In 2017, Jett Williams released her fourth and most recent album Mount Olive and although she doesn’t tour much these days, she still loves playing her daddy’s music.
Hank Williams was one of the greatest legends in country music history. He ranks right up there with Waylon Jennings, George Jones, and Buck Owens.
There is a reason why he earned himself the nickname of The Hillbilly Shakespeare. He was a masterful songwriter that could pen a tune that felt like it was directed right atcha.
Hank left behind some seriously hard to fill cowboy boots, but Jett and Hank Jr. have been doing a pretty good job at keeping his legacy going. Even Hank III, his outlaw rebel grandson, is continuing on the family musical tradition in his own unique way.
What was your favorite Hank Williams song? My personal favorite is I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive – which mind you was the last single he released before he died. If that’s not a spooky coincidence, then I don’t know what is.
Anyways, post your favorite Hank Williams songs in the comments section below.
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