Former Knoxville bellhop sheds light on Hank Williams Sr's final hours

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The death of Hank Williams Sr. remains somewhat of a mystery to this day. The legendary country singer died in 1952, but his music still lives on.

Today his granddaughter visited the site where Hank was last seen alive, the Andrew Johnson Hotel in downtown Knoxville.

"The stories,” said Holly Williams, 28, “there are so many different stories and interpretations of what happened. It’s kind of cool but really eerie to hear if he was alive when he came here or was he not and all the different stories."

What we do know is Hank was just one year older than Holly when he checked out of the Andrew Johnson Hotel on December 30th, 1952. It was a Saturday, and Williams had stopped at the Gay Street landmark to spend the night. At the time he was passing through Knoxville in a blue Cadillac, on his way to a gig. That’s where he met Emmanuel “Chico” Martin, who was an 18 year old bellhop at the hotel.

“We had to help him up to the room,” said Martin, who met the legend at the hotel’s front door. “I got a cart, the luggage, and I got Signey Fain and Walt Teller to help him up into the room. He wasn't all the way out or anything."

Fifty-seven years later, Martin is now the concierge at the downtown Knoxville Holiday Inn. In spite of it having been more than a half a century since the meeting, his memories are still as vivid as they were that fateful day at the end of 1952. According to the former bellhop, Williams stayed at the Andrew hotel until 10:00 or 11:00 the next morning.

“He was very much alive,” said Martin. “I talked to him coming in, talked to him coming out and I remember he made one little statement, ‘when you drink like this, this is the price you gotta pay.’ He just kind of drawled out and they ate there at the hotel that night and had some booze. He was very much alive, he just needed help.”

Holly admitted that her father, Hank Williams Jr. has told her all the good, bad and ugly stories about her grandfather. She also said that she still has a lot more to learn about one of the greats of country music.

These days the Andrew Johnson Hotel is now referred to as the Andrew Johnson Building. It is home to the Knox County Board of Education, though there is a movement for the county to sell it to developers who want to turn it into luxury condos. Some even say that the ghost of Hank Williams Sr. still lives on, roaming the building’s hallways.

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