Five days after her father died, Antha Belle was born on Jan. 6, 1953. Her mother had signed away her parental rights to the dad. And he had arranged to have his own mother be legal guardian for the unborn baby. Which she did, then she adopted Antha Belle, giving her a new name: Catherine Yvonne Stone. But there was more tragedy for the baby girl – before she was two, her grandmother died. Who was left? An aunt had the baby declared a ward of the state of Alabama. Soon she was adopted. The caveat for the adoptive parents was that Catherine would never be told who her real parents were – if the adoptive parents even knew. She was now Cathy Louise Deupree.
Cathy’s mother had her suspicions, which she kept to herself. Finally, when Cathy was in college, she broke down and told Cathy that she might be the only daughter of Hank Williams, Sr. Could this possibly be true? There were no records. By the time Cathy was able to find out her birth name – Antha Belle – and mother’s name –Bobbi Jett – her birth mother had died. Antha Belle had been conceived in 1952, after Hank’s wife Audrey filed for divorce. Williams had an affair with Francis “Bobbi” Jett, then the divorce came through and he married Billie Jean Jones on Oct. 18, 1952 and continued his life of performing and drinking.
That New Year’s Eve, after midnight, when his driver, 17-year-old Charles Carr, stopped in Oak Hill, West Virginia, he couldn’t rouse Williams. Hank Williams was dead. The cause of death was called a heart attack. Five days later, his daughter was born.
It took eight years and a number of court cases before Cathy proved she was the baby named Antha Belle. What the astute aunt had known was that adopted kids were unlikely to inherit birth parents’ money. However in 1987, Antha Belle was awarded half her father’s royalties. Hank Williams, Jr. appealed. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. Antha Bell finally won in 1990, when they declined to hear the case, making her a very rich woman. She changed her name to Jett Williams in honor of her mother and her father.
Jett Williams and Hank Williams, Jr., share the estate and a commitment to preserve their father’s legacy, and a friendship, but not a brother and sister relationship. The songs live on, including: Your Cheating Heart and Cold, Cold Heart and Hey, Good Lookin.’ Says Jett, “If I made up my story, it wouldn’t be this good.”