MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A bill pending in the Alabama Legislature would allow the city of Montgomery to assume ownership of one of the capital city's tourist attractions: the cemetery where country entertainer Hank Williams is buried.
The state Insurance Department assumed responsibility for the Oakwood Cemetery Annex in 2004 after the owner died and didn't leave any plans for succession. Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said the city has been maintaining the cemetery since 2009 because Williams' grave draws so many visitors, and a photo of it appearing overgrown attracted a lot of media attention.
"We as a city couldn't allow it to be all overgrown when we have all those visitors," he told the Montgomery Advertiser (http://on.mgmadv.com/15vqUzA ).
The mayor said state officials promised to find a way to reimburse the city for maintaining the property, and now they have found that way. The pending legislation calls for the city to assume ownership of the cemetery and to receive $125,000 from the Insurance Department. Strange said the maintenance runs about $5,000 to $7,000 per year.
He said it won't be much of a burden because the city already operates nearby Oakwood Cemetery, where three Confederate generals and four former governors are buried.
Phillip Taunton, sexton of Oakwood Cemetery, said Oakwood Cemetery Annex is also the burial place for members of the British Royal Air Force and French pilots who died while in Montgomery for training during World War II. While not as famous as Williams' grave, the military graves draw visitors, too.
"A lot of people come from all over the world to see his grave and also to see those soldiers' graves," Sexton said.
Williams died in West Virginia on Jan. 1, 1953, at the age of 29. His grave features two white and gray marble monuments, one to Williams and one to his former wife, Audrey Sheppard Williams. The grave also features a marble replica of Williams' cowboy hat.
Taunton said Oakwood Cemetery Annex is about 12 acres and had its earliest burials in the 1930s.