Genealogy Trails

Benton County Tennessee

Virginia Patterson Hensley
08 September 1932 - 05 March 1963

Born to a blacksmith and a seamstress, Patsy Cline has been heralded, by fans, colleagues and music critics alike, as one of the most influential and unique vocalists in the history of modern music. She made her first national appearance on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts television program in January of 1957, singing what would become her first hit, "Walking A fter Midnight."

Following her divorce from Gerald Cline ("Patsy" was given to her by her first manager), she married Charlie Dick, with whom she had two children, Julie (1958) and Randy (1961). She achieved a lifetime ambition in 1960 with membership to the Grand Ole Opry and, after being signed with Decca Records - Nashville, began a string of timeless hit recordings, under legendary Nashville Sound Producer, Owen Bradley, including "I Fall to Pieces" (1960), "She's Got You" and "Crazy" (1962). Other hits, including "Sweet Dreams" and "Leaving on Your Mind" (1963) followed posthumously. In 1961, she became the first female country music vocalist to play Carnegie Hall, and later, in 1962, the first to headline her own show in Las Vegas.

She was killed in a private plane accident following a benefit concert with fellow musicians Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas and Randy Hughes, their manager and pilot. In 1973, she became the first female solo act to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Known for her strong will and ambition, Patsy Cline is often credited as a heroine by newer generations of female singers, who claim she opened doors to them in a business dominated by men in a career that only spanned five years.

In 1985, a full length feature film and box office smash, "Sweet Dreams", told her life story and revitalized interest in her music. Among her numerous posthumous awards, including a U.S. Postal Stamp in 1993 and a 1995 Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award, stands her record as holding top in Country record sales with her "Greatest H its" album, nearly thirty years after her death and its release

Source: Jared Vaughn

CAMDEN, Tenn. (UPI) - Anniston Star Alabama 6 March 1963

Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas and Patsy Cline, stars of country music's famed Grand Ole Opry, were killed in the crash of their small plane Tuesday night during bad weather, authorities reported today. The three, along with Miss Cline's manager, Randy Hughes, were en route to Nashville, home of the Grand Ole Opry, from a benefit show in Kansas City when their plane went down.

Highway patrolmen who reached the scene of the crash, about three miles from the Tennessee River near this West Tennessee town, radioed back this morning that four bodies were found in the wreckage. A fire tower watchman first spotted the wreckage after dawn broke across the hill country, where several residents reported they had seen the Piper Comanche plane circling. Thunderstorms raked portions of Tennessee during the time and visibility in the Camden area was reported poor.

The three stars and Hughes landed at Dyersburg, Tenn., about 6 p. m., then took off for Nashville with fuel for three hours. Mrs. Hughes said in Nashville that her husband, who was piloting the plane, had telephoned from Dyersburg and said the four "would be home soon."

Capt. Frank Jones of the Eastern Air Rescue Center at Robins Air Force Base, said there were reports that the plane later was seen circling with its engine off. Miss Cline, of Winchester, Va., was named "outstanding female vocalist" las t year by country and western music publications.

She became a Grand Ole Opry regular in 1959. Among her biggest hits were "I Fall To Pieces," "She's Got You," and "Heartaches." Hawkins was a West Virginian who had been with the Opry eight years. His wife is Jean Shepard, another Opry star. Some of his better known songs were "Slow Poke," " Soldier's Joy" and "Twenty Miles From Shore." The four took part in a benefit show in Kansas City Sunday night for the family of Cactus Jack Call, a disc jockey killed last year in an automobile accident.

The Anniston Star Alabama 6 Mar 1963


By Nichole Manna - From the Jackson Sun in Jackson TN 2 March 2013

Camden TN -- When country music Bill Anderson spoke of Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas and Randy Hughes on Friday night, he said those people were heroes to him, and although the plane crash that killed all four of them was 50 years ago, he still misses them every day.

He said that Copas was one of the nicest and most unselfish people he's met. He said he was a fan of Hawkins as a kid and bought his records. And he told very kind stories of Cline that showed what a wonderful woman she was.

Anderson shared his memories of friendship with a crowd of over 200 country music fans during the "Gone But Not Forgotten" event held in Camden in remembrance of the four who died in the plane crash.

Anderson said that on March 3, 1963, Hawkins, Cline and Copas performed at a benefit concert in Kansas for the family of disc jockey "Cactus" Jack Call, who ha d died in January after an automobile accident.

Billy Walker also was supposed to perform but had an emergency come up and needed to return to Nashville immediately. Hawkins gave Walker his commercial airline ticket and flew back in a private plane in Walker's place.

On March 5,1963, Hawkins, Cline and Copas left for Nashville with Hughes, who was the plane's pilot, Cline's guitar player and Copas' son-in-law.

The plane crashed into a forest near Camden. There were no survivors. Investigators later said that severe weather played a role in the crash.

"That plane crash -50 years ago - had a huge impact on the people of Camden," said Bill Kee, who heads up Benton County's Chamber of Commerce and helped organize the event. "Nashville is only 95 miles from downtown Camden. People here feel like they lost their neighbors in the crash, and we understand the significance of these artists to the history of American music."

A celebrity panel spoke on Friday, discussing the lives and careers of the four. The panel consisted of Anderson, Chuck Dauphin of Billboard Magazine, USA Today's Brian Mansfield and music journalist Robert K. Obermann.

"If you're a female vocalist, Patsy Cline is the bar," Oermann said. Some of the panelists have written books about the country singers.

After the panel discussion, Anderson took to the stage with The Bill Anderson Trio and performed for the cheering crowd. He sang his own songs as well as songs from those who were killed in the plane crash. Hawkshaw Hawkins Jr. also performed. "Gone But Not Forgotten" will conclude with performances today. Music will starf at 1 p.m. at o the New Beginnings Annex on South Forrest Avenue in Camden. The headlining musician will be Many Barnett, star of "Always Patsy Cline."

"The Night The Stars Fell"
By Jordan Buie - Jackson Sun - Jackson Tennessee March 3, 2013

On the evening of March 5, 1963, Camden resident Paul Thompson, now 83, said he was walking to a community meeting on storm shelters, a safety measure he said community officials encouraged for every home.

He said the meeting was scheduled to start at 7 p.m. and he started walking to the meeting a little after 6 p.m.

The evening of the meeting, a storm blew in from the east, with strong, cold winds, Thompson said. "I remember the wind was blowing hard," - "And the storm was picking up. It was building up to be a good one."

On the way to the meeting, Thompson said he heard a loud guttural sound, like a plane engine dying and revving up again. Then he heard it, the crash that put Camden on the map.

The next morning, people across the country listened with wonder at the news that a plane had crashed and killed Grand Ole Opry stars, Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cline's manager, Randy Hughes.

Fifty years later, Camden residents and family, friends and fans of the stars gathered last week for a "Gone But Not Forgotten" memorial service, filled wit h country music, memorabilia and reminiscence.

But Thompson and another man said talk of the crash brings back memories of a cold night's search through the woods, and a man who was 15 years old when he stumbled upon the crash described a scene of destruction he said his teenage mind could not fathom.

While a 33-year-old Thompson sat bored through his community safety meeting, several accounts tell of a serious conversation that took place at the airport. Country music singers Bill Anderson, Cline, Copas, Hawkins and Hughes discussed whether they should fly on to Nashville.

They had stopped at the airport for fuel after a charity concert in Kansas, and the weary Cline wanted to meet her husband in Nashville. Locals say the airport manager warned them to stay, but Cline, Copas, Hawkins and Hughes boarded the plane. Anderson did not. Thompson said about 30 minutes into the community meeting, people received word of the crash and got into their cars and went to search for it.

Twenty-year-old Roy Sharp was already riding around in his car listening to his CB radio when he heard the news. "There were talking about a plane that was in trouble that left Dyersburg, and they thought it was going down," said Sharp, now 70, last week. "A little later , I heard them say the plane had crashed."

Sharp said after the plane crashed, he listened to the scanner and went to the place where the radio said people searched. When he arrived in the area, he said there was about four or five other men in the woods who searched with him. Just before dawn on March 6,1963, Sharp said, the searchers came to a house where an old man met them in his yard and said the plane went down somewhere in the woods behind his home.

Right after daylight, Sharp said he and the other searchers were among the first to find the crash site. He said he was not prepared for what he saw. "It looked like that plane went through a blender," he said. "It and eve rything in it. There were metal parts scattered all through the trees."

Sharp said some people let law enforcement know where the plane went down, but others stayed and took pieces of the plane for keepsakes. Sharp said he took a keepsake of his own. "I'll always remember that morning and what I saw there," he said. "Me a nd Daddy toted out part of the propeller. I got the big piece, and he took the little piece."

Much of the carnage Sharp witnessed was cleaned up by the time Thompson arrived at the crash site later in the morning, but Stanley Hooten, 65, said he stopped off at the crash site on his way to school and that he, too, was unprepared for what he saw.

It's not something a 15 year old boy is prepared to see," he said. "It's just something you don't expect, for famour people like that to have their plane crash in a place like Camden.".

Sharp still owns the propeller pieces he and his father carried out of the woods in 1963. He said a serial number at its base makes its one of the only parts of the plane still identifiable today.

I will remember that morning for as long as I live," he said.

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