Memorial Established in Milano for Country Star Johnny Horton
Jeanne Williams - Temple Daily Telegram
September 22, 2010
MILANO — A half-century ago in the early morning hours of Nov. 5, country music legend
Johnny Horton died en route to a Milam County hospital after his eastbound Cadillac was
struck by a pickup piloted by a 19-year-old drunken college student on the two-lane
railroad overpass in Milano.
Since then, much has been written about Horton’s final day; his performance at the
Skyline Club in Austin, and the singer’s doomsday premonition that he would someday die
at the hands of a drunk. Horton was headed back to his Shreveport, La., home when the
westbound pickup crashed into both guard rails on the narrow viaduct before colliding
with Horton’s Cadillac.
The railroad bridge of 1960 was demolished and replaced in the late 1980s, but memories
of Horton’s death linger among longtime Milano residents.
Today, with the goal of commemorating the singer’s life and designating the point of the
fatal crash, The Johnny Horton Memorial Association has been established with Milano
Mayor Billy Barnett serving as chairman, Granger resident Steve Raby, vice chairman, and
city secretary Carolyn Vinton, treasurer. Barnett and Mrs. Vinton were children when the
shocking news of Horton’s death circulated around Milano. The association applied for
IRS tax-exempt status as a charitable organization.
Under the plan, a Johnny Horton monument will be designed and set up honoring the
singer, with a biography and details of his death. The memorial is to be set up near the
site of the crash on Texas 36. Plans are in the works for a Nov. 5 program in the Civic
Center to remember Horton and his contributions to country music on the 50th anniversary
of his 1960 death, Mrs. Vinton said. Details will be announced later.
Horton worked his way into country music by competing in talent contests. When Tillman
Franks became his manager, Horton’s career skyrocketed. He signed a contract with
Columbia Records and produced such hits as “Honky Tonk Man,” “The Battle of New Orleans”
and “North to Alaska.”