Uncertainty surrounding a historic Montgomery cemetery may be coming to an end. The Oakwood Cemetery Annex, home to the grave of country music legend Hank Williams, may soon have a new owner.
Bills in the Alabama State House and Senate would effectively transfer ownership of the cemetery to the city of Montgomery, which has already been maintaining for the grounds for years.
The cemetery has been in receivership since 2004 after the previous owner died without leaving the property to anyone. It is now owned by the Alabama Department of Insurance, but the city spends between $5,000 and $7,000 per year to maintain it.
"We said to the insurance department, we'll maintain it," Mayor Todd Strange explained. "You pay us. And we've been asking for that payment for now three years."
Strange said it is important the cemetery be maintained because of the tourist traffic it receives.
"The grass is cut low. We've seen several maintenance men on the other part of the cemetery," said Jimmy Bark, whose family visited the Hank Williams grave site. "It looks pretty nice to me."
Strange also said taking ownership of the cemetery would allow the city to do a thorough inspection of the records of the plots at the Annex, and perhaps re-open it to burials.
The Department of Insurance supports the bill, according to Mark Fowler, the Department's Government Relations Manager. Fowler said the bill reflects an agreement between Commissioner Jim Ridling and Mayor Strange.
The bills are pending in House and Senate committees. Any action would be subject to the approval of the Montgomery County Circuit Court.
In addition to Hank Williams, the cemetery is also the final resting place to three Confederate general of the Civil War and four former Alabama governors.
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