The founder of the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery has died. Cecil Jackson died on March 15 of complications after surgery. He was 73.
Jackson was one of that dwindling group of people who actually knew Hank Williams. He met him as a youngster when Hank bought him a coke at a local store. In a footnote to history, Jackson changed the tires on Hank’s Cadillac in preparation for the tragic trip north over New Years 1952/53.
But Jackson’s great contribution to the Hank Williams legacy came as he collected memorabilia. Finally in 1999 he opened the Hank Williams Museum. He also was involved with the annual New Years vigil at the Williams’ gravesite.
This has been a tragic period for those involved in perpetuating the memory of Hank Williams, as several colleagues have passed on. Back in December, Mary Wallace a board member of the Georgianna Museum and a founder of the Hank Williams Festival in that community died. Earlier, Dale Vinicur a Hank Williams historian and author passed away. Hank biographer and Alabama native Paul Hemphill also died last year.
Of course in August 2008, the world lost the legendary centerpiece of the Hank Williams’ sound, steel guitar artist Don Helms.
The effort to preserve and enhance the reputation of Hank Williams as a significant world artist is reaching a turning point as so many of those who were his contemporaries and friends leave us. Fortunately, a new generation of seems to be coming forward. As examples, we have a major exhibition at the Hall of Fame, new books with new attitudes (the late Paul Hemphill’s biography for instance), a film by Harry Thomason in production, an article in the New Literary History of America, Jack White and Bob Dylans proposed new album of Hank songs, tribute shows and Broadway style productions, Norah Jones interest in Hank, Dave Mathews performance with Neil Young on the worldwide Haiti relief benefit, and of course the obvious devotion of those who produced the Mother’s Best box sets.
I imagine as Hank Williams’ legacy endures and grows in the centuries ahead, Cecil Jackson and the others will be remembered always as people who understood early and profoundly the importance preserving his works and memory for the generations they knew would follow in their footsteps and see Hank Williams as an artist of world wide importance.