Remember When George Jones Was Scared Straight by a Life-Changing Accident?
George Jones was one of country music's most legendary hell-raisers, but he finally straightened out toward the end of his life after a car accident that hospitalized him and could have taken his life.
Jones had a huge early career, but by the late '70s he was almost as well known for his partying as he was for his music. The country icon earned the nickname "No Show Jones" for his habit of simply not showing up for concerts he had scheduled, and by the time he met his fourth wife, Nancy, in 1981, his career was significantly diminished and he was practically financially ruined.
She set about trying to rescue both his career and his personal life, and in fact, Jones was able to turn his career and reputation around. By the '90s he was well-regarded as country music's elder statesman, but behind the scenes, he was still struggling with alcohol.
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That struggle came to a head on March 6, 1999, when Jones was involved in a single-car accident near his home in the Nashville suburb of Franklin, Tenn. He hit a bridge in his SUV and suffered a lacerated liver, punctured lung and internal bleeding. Jones spent 13 days in the hospital, and though it was originally reported that he had been on the phone at the time and alcohol did not play a role, investigators found a pint bottle of vodka under his passenger seat that had previously been opened. On May 12, 1999, Jones pleaded guilty to charges of driving while impaired and violating Tennessee's open container law, and in a press conference afterward, he took full responsibility for his actions.
Jones would later recall that incident as the turning point in his sobriety, and said he had even given up smoking after the terrifying ordeal. In an interview with Nashville's Tennessean after his death, Nancy Jones said it was miraculous to her after 18 years of trying to get him sober. She said Jones made a deal with God after the accident.
"He said, 'God if you let me get over this, I'll never touch a cigarette or liquor again,'" she recalled. "I was warm all over. This time he meant it."
She says Jones was sober for the rest of his life, until his death in 2013.
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