The Story Behind Hank Williams’ Iconic Jail Photo From 1952

Hank Williams country music
Alex City Jail

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that Hank Williams was one of the original pioneers of country music.

He was one of the first artists to bring mass popularity to the genre, and he did so in such a short period of time. He tragically passed away in 1952, at the age of 29, following a long struggle with alcoholism and substance abuse.

His substance abuse issues stemmed from crippling back pain he had been suffering from for quite some time, ultimately resulting in him getting fired from the Grand Ole Opry.

Although, he was fired from the biggest stage in country music for his addictions, the move only sent him further into a downward spiral, which resulted in a 1952 arrest for public intoxication in Alexander City, Alabama.

Williams, who was an Alabama native, visited Alexander City a good bit during his career, spending his time on Lake Martin.

According to his biography, Hank Williams: The Biographyhe was staying at the old Russell Hotel, and began to raise cane after a long day filled with traveling and drinking, causing a disturbance to other guests and employees.

He was then arrested on charges of public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.

Alexander City Police Chief Winfred explained:

“I believe he was more or less having delirium tremens. He was running up and down the hall of the Russell Hotel yelling that someone was whupping old ladies and he was going to stop them.”

A few hours later, it’s been reported that Darwin Dobbs, who had been hosting Williams and his buddies at the Lake Martin Lodge, posted a $25 bond and paid the $10 fine to free the country singer, which was when the iconic picture of Williams standing shirtless outside of the jail was taken.

According to Alex City Outlook, that photo hangs in the office of Deputy Chief Jay Turner:

“Everybody who has lived here has heard the story of him being in jail here. But to find that paperwork, it shows a lot about what was happening in his life.”

WSFA confirms that the jail cell also holds a carving of Hank’s his own name in the wall, along with a drawing of himself in a cowboy hat. So while we’re not sure how long he was in jail, he was there long enough to do some jail cell wall art.

The jail has since closed.

However, Alexander City legend has it that Williams was inspired to write his hit song “Kaw-Liga” after that night, naming the song after the local community in the area called Kowliga, and recorded it shortly after on September 23, 1952.

Needless to say, the arrest foreshadowed what was to come for the famed country singer.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock