Billie Jean Horton
Billie Jean Jones Eshliman Williams Horton Berlin (born August 12, 1933), professionally known as Billie Jean Horton, was a country music performer who was best known for her marriages to country singers Hank Williams and Johnny Horton.
The daughter of a police officer from Bossier City, Louisiana, she was already divorced from a first husband, Harrison Eshliman when she was introduced to Hank by her then boyfriend, country singer Faron Young. They married in October 1952, when she was 19 years old. They first married in a private ceremony in Minden, Louisiana, then repeated their vows before sold-out audiences at two Williams concerts at the Municipal Auditorium in New Orleans.
Williams died from heart failure on New Year's Day 1953. Late that same year, she married country singer Johnny Horton and became important in promoting his career. Horton died in an automobile accident in 1960, widowing her a second time. She then worked as a recording artist, with her record "Ocean of Tears" hitting the country top 40 in 1961, and had a relationship with Johnny Cash (then still married to his first wife, Vivian Liberto). Later she married and divorced a fourth husband, insurance executive Kent Berlin. In 1971 a federal court ruled that, despite the fact that her first divorce (from Eshliman) might not have been final before her wedding with Williams, she had married Williams in good faith and their marriage was entitled to a presumption of validity. She became known for her energetic efforts on behalf of the reputations and estates of both of her famous husbands.
- George William Koon, Hank Williams, So Lonesome (University Press of Mississippi, 1983), ISBN 978-1578062836, pp. 68ff. Excerpts available at Google Books. Other sources give his name as "Eshlimar", e.g. Roger M. Williams, Sing a Sad Song: The Life of Hank Williams (University of Illinois Press, 1981), ISBN 978-0252008610, pp. 200ff. Excerpts available at Google Books. See Koon, p. 148 n.74, for a brief discussion of why "Eshliman" is more likely correct.
- John Prime, Merry widow of country legends", The Los Angeles Times, September 20, 1987.
- Erroll Labord, "Hank Williams and Billie Jean Say I Do", New Orleans Magazine, September 2013.
- Joel Whitburn, The Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits (Random House, 2006), ISBN 978-0823082919, p. 475. Excerpts available at Google Books.
- Robert Hilburn, Johnny Cash: The Life (Hachette Digital, 2013), ISBN 978-0316248693. Excerpts available at Google Books.
- "She's living off two country music legends", Associated Press in Gadsden Times, October 1, 1975
- "Mrs. Hank Williams: Late Star's Widow Wins Court Battle", United Press International in The Dispatch (Lexington, N.C.), June 11, 1971.
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