Charles Carr, Driver for Hank Williams’ Last Ride Dies at 77


(photo by Kevin Glackmeyer)

One of the last man to see country music legend Hank Williams alive, is now dead.

Charles Carr, the young driver hired to take Hank Williams from Montgomery, AL to a show in Canton, OH, died after a brief illness at his home in Montgomery. He was 77-years-old.

Charles Carr comforting Irene Williams
Charles Carr comforting Irene Williams

On January 1st 1953, Hank Williams was scheduled to perform a New Year’s show in Canton, OH. Because of bad weather, he couldn’t fly as planned, and hired Charles Carr, a freshman college student at the time, to drive him in his powder blue Cadillac. Hank suffered from chronic back problems, and had injected himself with morphine during the trip from Knoxville, TN and also was drinking alcohol. Hank Williams died of heart failure sometime that night with varying accounts of exactly where and when, though a gas station in Oak Hill, WV is given credit as Hank’s final destination. Hank was 29.

Charles Carr & Actor Jesse James
Charles Carr & Actor Jesse James (Natalie Wade,

The story of Hank’s final fateful trip was recently made into a movie called The Last Ride, A Story of Hank Williams, with the part of Charles Carr scripted as Silas Combs, and played by actor Jesse James. The film was not meant to be an accurate historical portrayal of the trip, and instead focused on the perceived relationship that may have developed between the two men.

Hank’s daughter Jett Williams has since clarified some of the famed last ride story, saying that Charles Carr was not the only one in the Hank’s Cadillac when he died. In an interview with Saving Country Music corespondent Joshua Morningstar, Jett said Hank’s personal physician Toby Marshall and a second relief driver named Donald Surface were also present when Hank passed away in Oak Hill, West Virginia.

“Toby Marshall actually ended up in Oak Hill, West Virginia on that fateful trip. I mean he was there. That’s a little tidbit that’s always been left out. And there were actually two drivers and not one driver. He’s been identified as Donald Surface and he was hired in Bluefield (Virginia). So there were two drivers in the car, and both of those drivers were in Oak Hill when my dad was pronounced dead.”

Charles Carr was a friend of the Williams family. Beth Petty, the director of the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery, says that Carr “was always kind to fans of Hank,” and he never tried to profit from the fact that he was driving when Hank Williams passed away. Carr worked in investment and real estate in Montgomery.

UPDATE (7-6-13): The funeral service for Charles Carr will be held today, Saturday June 6th 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.

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