Billie Jean Horton

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Billie Jean Horton
Billie Jean Jones

(1933-06-06) June 6, 1933 (age 87)
OccupationCountry music singer-songwriter, music promoter
Known forAlso known for her marriages to country musicians Hank Williams and Johnny Horton

Billie Jean Jones Eshleman Williams Horton Berlin (born June 6, 1933), professionally known as Billie Jean Horton, is an American country-music singer-songwriter and former music promoter who is best known for her marriages to iconic country musician and singer-songwriter Hank Williams Sr. and subsequently to singer Johnny Horton.


Horton was the daughter of a police chief from Bossier City, Louisiana. She divorced her first husband Harrison Eshleman[1] when she was introduced to Hank Williams by her then-boyfriend, country singer Faron Young.[2] They married in a private ceremony in Minden, Louisiana on October 18, 1952, then repeated their vows before sold-out audiences at two Williams concerts at the Baton Rouge High School gymnasium and the Municipal Auditorium in New Orleans, Louisiana.[2][3] She was 19.

Williams died from heart failure on New Year's Day 1953. That September, she married country singer Johnny Horton and became important in promoting his career. They had two daughters, Yanina and Melody, and Horton adopted her daughter Jeri Lynn. Horton died on 5 November 1960, in a traffic collision with a truck, widowing Billie Jean a second time.[2] She then worked as a recording artist; her record "Ocean of Tears" hit the country top 40 in 1961.[4] She had a relationship with Johnny Cash (while he was still married to his first wife, Vivian Liberto).[5] Later she married insurance executive Kent Berlin, whom she subsequently divorced.[2][6]

In 1971, a judge ruled that despite her divorce from Eshleman not being finalized before her wedding with Williams, she entered the marriage in good faith and thus their union was entitled to a presumption of validity.[7]

Horton became known for her energetic efforts on behalf of the reputations and estates of both of her famous husbands.[2][6] As of 2016, she resides in an assisted-living facility and her three daughters live in Shreveport.[8]

Film depiction[edit]

Horton is portrayed by actress Maddie Hasson in the 2015 biopic film about Hank Williams' life titled I Saw the Light.[9]


  1. ^ 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 "Eshleman" is likely correct.
  2. ^ a b c d e John Prime, Merry widow of country legends", Los Angeles Times, September 20, 1987.
  3. ^ Erroll Labor, "Hank Williams and Billie Jean Say I Do", New Orleans Magazine, September 2013.
  4. ^ Joel Whitburn, The Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits (Random House, 2006), ISBN 978-0823082919, p. 475. Excerpts available at Google Books.
  5. ^ Robert Hilburn, Johnny Cash: The Life (Hachette Digital, 2013), ISBN 978-0316248693. Excerpts available at Google Books.
  6. ^ a b "She's living off two country music legends", Associated Press in Gadsden Times, October 1, 1975
  7. ^ "Mrs. Hank Williams: Late Star's Widow Wins Court Battle", United Press International in The Dispatch (Lexington, N.C.), June 11, 1971.
  8. ^ John Andrew Prime. "Billie Jean Horton, a true American classic". Shreveport Times.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Jen Yamato (2 October 2014). "Maddie Hasson Joins 'I Saw The Light'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 6 October 2014.