Graves of the Famous in Alabama (Part One)
I've always had a fascination with graveyards. It's weird...I know. Maybe it's from growing up southern and my family's dedication to Decoration Day. In case you're not familiar, Decoration Day is a very old tradition in the south. It's one day set aside each year for cleaning up the brush and weeds around family graves and then decorating them with flowers. When I was a kid, it was like a family reunion - with aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents all showing up to make the graves of our loved ones "presentable." I looked forward to it every year. While the grown ups were busy cleaning up, decorating and talking, I was off exploring - wandering the creepy maze of marble tombstones and looking for the oldest and most unusual grave that I could find. To this day, I still love exploring graveyards - even if it's online. Recently, while exploring the website Findagrave.com, I discovered quite a few very interesting graves of famous people buried in Alabama. Here's the beginning of my list: Graves of the Famous in Alabama Part One
(Part one of a three part series).
Oakwood Annex Cemetery, Montgomery
This is probably one of the most famous and frequently visited graves in Alabama: the resting place of the famous country singer Hank Williams along with his first wife, Audrey Mae Williams. Why the covering of bright green astroturf, you may ask? Apparently, there were so many fans plucking a clump of grass to keep as a souvenir while visiting the gravesite that the present artificial turf had to be laid - else the grave would be constantly bare. Williams' son also added a marble marker to the gravesite which reads: "Please do not desecrate this sacred spot. Many thanks, Hank Williams, Jr."
Hank Williams bio on Findagrave.com begins:
"Singer, Songwriter. He received international acclaim for his traditional-style country music sung with his bluesy, Honky Tonk voice. Having a dozen singles to reach #1 on the Top Ten, the list of his hits is long, given that he lived only 29 years..." Written by Donald Grayfield
(Remainder of bio along with more photos can be found here).
The Legendary Bluesman Johnny Shines
Cedar Oak Memorial Park, Tuscaloosa
Probably one of the most underrated blues artists during his lifetime, he was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. His very interesting gravestone reads "When the history of the blues comes to be written, Johnny will take his place with Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, and Robert Johnson as one of the great creators and interpreters of the Blues tradition." (See Johnny Shine's full bio by Findagrave contributor "Michael" and more photos here).
Church Street Cemetery, Mobile
Another grave in Alabama of a Legendary musician. His bio on Findagrave by contributor "Graveaddiction" reads:
"Musician, he was a staple for more than three decades at Mobile's Mardi Gras events. Bob Schultz, with his clarinet and saxophone, led the music at Mobile's Grand Coronation Ball for more than thirty years. Many credit him with keeping New Orleans style jazz alive in Mobile. Schultz is one of only four people to be buried at the Church Street Cemetery graveyard since it closed back in 1898."
(Link on Findagrave can be found here).
Walter Vann Hough
Hough Cemetary, Lacey's Spring
If you wonder why a gasoline brand name is on this lovely black marble tombstone, here's why:
"Businessman. Founder of Wavaho Oil Company, which started in Lacey's Spring, Alabama, and became a chain of gas stations throughout the southern United States. He used the first two letters of his first, middle, and last name to create the name Wavaho for his petroleum company." (Bio found on Findagrave, author not listed). For more photos and info, look here.
Joseph Stillwell Cain, Jr.
Church Street Cemetery, Mobile
Full bio on Findagrave.com:
"Folk Figure. Joseph Stillwell Cain, Jr., also known as "Old Joe Cain", "Chief Slacabormorinico" or "Old Slac", is recognized as the man responsible for the Mardi Gras celebration's rebirth in the years immediately following the Civil War in Mobile, Alabama. The stress of the Civil War brought an end to the annual festivities in Mobile. After the war and under Union occupation, the city was disillusioned and discouraged. On the afternoon of Fat Tuesday in 1866, Joseph Stillwell “Joe” Cain, Jr. set out to raise the spirits of Mobile. Appearing as a mythical Chickasaw Indian, "Chief Slacabormorinico" or “Old Slac”, from Wagg Swamp, he climbed aboard a decorated coal wagon pulled by a mule and held a one-float parade through the streets of Mobile. This was the beginning of the modern era of Mardi Gras in Mobile. Cain’s reasoning for masquerading as the Chickasaw Indian chief was that the Chickasaw Indians were never defeated, and this was to show the Union occupation, since the south lost the Civil War. He succeeded in what his goal was, which was lifting the Mobile Bay Region from despair and reviving Mardi Gras. In 1867, Joe Cain made his second appearance as “Old Slac”, but this time he is accompanied by the “Lost Cause Minstrels”, 16 former Confederate soldiers playing drums and horns. This was the origin of The Order of the Myths parade on Fat Tuesday. Cain founded many of the mystic societies and built a tradition of Mardi Gras parades, which continues today. In fact, he is remembered each year on Joe Cain Day, which is the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. Known as "the people’s day," Mardi Gras revelers decorate anything they can push, pull, or drag for the Joe Cain Procession and parade, which is as much fun to watch as it is to ride. Cain himself participated in each year’s festivity until he died. Joseph Stillwell “Joe” Cain, Jr. was a son of Joseph Cain, Sr. and Julia Ann Turner. He married Elizabeth Alabama Rabby." Written by contributor "The Wanderer."
(Full entry with photos here).
Cedar Tree Cemetery, Hackleburg
According to his bio on Findagrave.com:
"Country Music Singer, Songwriter. Born Jimmie Hugh Loden and dubbed "the Southern Gentleman", he was a popular singer and songwriter and was best known for his 1957 hit "Young Love". He started in music at an early age due to the fact he came from a musical family that performed all over the southern part of the United States. In 1950 his musical career was put on hold as his national guard unit was called to active duty in Korea, a stint which lasted one year. After he was discharged, he started on a solo career and changed his name to "Sonny James". During the early part of his career, he had a series of songs that did well on the country charts, but "Young Love" was his first big hit. Released in late 1956, "Young Love" hit number one on both the country and pop charts in January 1957 and afterwards he gained national exposure on both the "Ed Sullivan Show" and the "Bob Hope Show". He would go on to have 26 number 1 hits, which included an unprecedented five year streak of 16 straight Billboard number 1 singles. He became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and appeared on various television shows such as "Hee Haw" and the "Mike Douglas Show". Throughout his career, he had a total 72 pop and country releases. In 2007 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame." Written by Mr. Badger Hawkeye. (For additional info and photos, click here).
Highland Memorial Gardens, Bessemer
Legendary Nascar driver. His bio on Findagrave by G. Photographer reads:
"Auto Race Car Driver. Born in Hollywood, Florida, David "Davey" Allison was born the son of NASCAR series champion Bobby Allison and the nephew of NASCAR driver Donnie Allison. Having grown up in the racing world, Davey would naturally begin to race as well. After racing in numerous series and rising through the ranks, Davey would make it to the NASCAR Busch series in the early 1980s and, in 1985, made his debut in the NASCAR Cup series. In his cup series career, he would make 191 starts and win 19 races, the most notable being the 1992 Daytona 500. On August 13, 1992, Davey's younger brother Clifford, who raced in the NASCAR Busch series, was killed while running practice laps at Michigan International Speedway. Davey rebounded from the tragedy and almost won the 1992 Cup series championship, finishing third overall to Alan Kulwicki. Kulwicki was killed the next April in a private plane crash. In 1993, Davey would purchase a new helicopter and on July 12, 1993, he and fellow driver Red Farmer were attempting to land at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. At some point during the landing, the helicopter went out of control and crashed. Farmer was seriously injured while Allison received serious head injuries. Allison succumbed the next morning at the age of 32. In 1998, Allison was officially inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame."
(Find more photos and info here).
Big Bo McGee
First Baptist Church Cemetery, Eutaw
Bio by Evening Blues reads: "Blues Singer. Big Bo learned to play harmonica and piano as a child. His first audiences were the people he played for at the age of ten at his grandmother's juke joint in Alabama. In the 1950s, he and singer Little Whitt Wells formed a band called the House Rockers. He and Wells performed together for decades, including tours of Europe and the Chicago Blues Festival. In 1995, the two men, well into their 60s, had Britain's Blueprint's "CD of the Year" with the album "Moody Swamp Blues." In 2000, he received the Alabama Blues Project's Alabama Blues Ambassador Award, and in 2001 he received the State of Alabama's Folk Heritage Award." (Entire entry on Findagrave can be found here).
Oak Hill Cemetery, Jasper
His full bio on Findagrave.com: "Actor. His best known role was as 'Goober Pyle' in the television series "The Andy Griffith Show" (1964 to 1968) and "Mayberry R.F.D." (1968 to 1971). Raised in the small town of Jasper, Alabama, he became captivated by movies at an early age and spent a great deal of time at the neighborhood theater. He had a particular fondness for William "Hopalong Cassidy" Boyd. He caught the acting bug during his teens, after watching a production of "Oklahoma!," but it would be athletics which first preoccupied him. He earned a football scholarship to Florence State Teachers College (now the University of North Alabama) and excelled playing at the quarterback position. It was during this period, when he began to fulfill his dream of acting and among one of the earliest stage productions he performed in would ironically be "Oklahoma!." He graduated with degrees in Biological Science and Physical Education and went onto serve a stint with the United States Air Force in Florida. While there he acted and performed comedy routines. He returned to Alabama, where he taught high school history, however it would not be long before he once again answered the calling to perform. He relocated to New York to acquire stronger skills and studied at the American Theater Wing. His break came when he landed a part in the Broadway play "All American" (1962) and this would lead to his television introduction in the series "The Rifleman", which was followed by his role in an episode of "The Twilight Zone" titled "I am the Night- Color Me Black" (1964). He marked his film debut in "Ensign Pulver" (1964) and that same year launched his career-change role of Goober Pyle in "The Andy Griffith Show." After "Mayberry R.F.D." ended its run in 1971, he moved onto appearance in the series "Love, American Style" and "M*A*S*H*," among others. When not performing, Lindsey donated time and money to such causes as the Special Olympics and programs to benefit children with mental disabilities." Written by contributor C.S.
(Full entry with additional photos here).
Elmwood Cemetery, Birmingham
Full bio on Findagrave.com reads: "R&B Singer. He was an original member of the influential Motown singing group "The Temptations". Born in Union Springs, Alabama, he left home at a young age, traveling to Detroit, Michigan with his boyhood friend Paul Williams. The two men formed their own group, "The Primes". However, Eddie Kendricks' record deal fell through, leaving him without a contract. He met Otis Williams and in 1961, The Temptations were formed. From 1961 to 1971, he added the "s" to Kendrick (Kendricks). He sang lead vocals on many songs during The Temptations' early years, such as: "The Way You Do The Things You Do", "Get Ready", "The Girl's Alright With Me", "I'll Be in Trouble" and "Girl Why You Wanna Make Me Blue". Eddie Kendricks left The Temptations in 1971 to pursue a solo career; he recorded such songs as "Keep on Trucking", "Boogie Down" and "Can I". He later re-united with David Ruffin, who left the group in 1968; he and David Ruffin then formed a group with Dennis Edwards. The group toured and performed throughout the world. In 1989, Eddie, David and Dennis reunited with The Temptations to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1991, Eddie Kendricks was diagnosed with lung cancer. He continued to sing and tour the country almost until his death in 1992. In 1999, The Temptations were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. The Temptations have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their contributions to music, located at 7060 Hollywood Blvd." Bio written by contributor Babe.
(See full entry here).
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Graves of the Famous in Alabama Part 2 & 3
plus more content about Alabama and the Shoals area!