**Note: Per the request of the Wayne Mills family, no photos are currently being made available of the memorial service. People are requested not to post or share images from the online stream that was hosted by Southern Stream Live.
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On December 8th, friends, family, and fans of musician and songwriter Jerald Wayne Mills gathered in the High School Auditorium of Wayne’s hometown of Arab, AL for a final remembrance of the man who was gunned down tragically in Nashville on November 23rd.
Heather Little Standifird sang “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” ahead of Pastor Don Ware from the Highlands Baptist Church, who both baptized and married Wayne Mills to his widow Carol, officially commencing the memorial. “We started a little early. We should have started 30 minutes late, just to pay Wayne back,” the pastor lovingly joked. “For Wayne, it it wasn’t about money, it was about making music to please people.”
Gary “Sarge” Sargeant of the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame and the Outlaw Music Association spoke next, saying among other things that the Guardian Award from the Outlaw Music Hall of Fame meant to recognize artists carrying on the legacy of Outlaw music would now be known as the “Wayne Mills Memorial Award.” Wayne was one of the inaugural recipients of the Guardian Award, and was a member of the Outlaw Music Association Board of Directors.
“The music always came first with Wayne. There are few chosen by God who leave so much for us to remember them by,” said Gary Sargeant in part. “He’s left us with two missions: to take care of his family, and take care of each other. That’s what he worked hard for. That’s what he lived his life about. He didn’t know anything else. So while we grieve today, let’s come together, and support one another, and move forward, and lift up the name of Wayne Mills in our everyday lives, as he did everyday.”
Jonathan Barbee, a friend of Wayne’s for over 10 years, gave a speech about the value Wayne gave to friendship. He then presented the “Commendation from the Governor” from Alabama Governor Robert Bentley that read in part:
Whereas it is with great sorrow and regret that we note the lamentable death of Arab, AL native Wayne Mills who died on November 23rd, 2013….He leaves behind an unbelievable testament to his philosophy of life, and many friends and family. Now therefore, I, Robert, Bentley, governor of Alabama, do hereby commend the life of Wayne Mills, and express my condolences to his family and friends. May God bless them richly and comfort them. Given under my hand, and the great seal of the office of the Governor at the State Capitol in the City of Montgomery on the 8th day of December, 2013.
Kris Caldwell, Elton Charles, and Cowboy Eddie Long played then Wayne Mills song “One Of These Days” ahead of Larry McSpadden, Wayne’s first cousin, giving a speech on behalf of Wayne’s relatives, remembering a man who was deeply devoted to his family.
Then the Waylon Jennings’ song “Freedom to Stay” played throughout the auditorium before Pastor Don Ware then finished out the ceremony with closing comments.
I don’t know if God likes honky tonk music or not. But one thing I do know is God likes love, he likes honesty, sincerity, compassion, treating your neighbor like you like to be treated. So if Wayne’s songs, and which they did, emphasizes some of those things, then I believe God would like a lot of honky tonk music. In fact he’s probably listening to it right now
The next picture is a real picture. Wayne is sitting in front of a photographer and you can see his back. You can see his cowboy hat that needed replacing. And you can see he’s playing guitar and he’s sitting on a granite stool. And in front of him is a large granite marker in this cemetery. And on that marker it say ‘Hank Williams’. I think Wayne was there probably to get some inspiration. You know, Wayne and Hank was kind of alike. They went their own way. They sang their own music.
The ceremony concluded with the playing of the Wayne Mills song “Homeward Bound.”