Harold Franklin Hawkins (an early Christmas present) was born to Icie Hawkins and her husband Alex in Huntington, West Virginia on December 22, 1921 and as a baby, lived for a short while across the Ohio River in Lawrence County, Ohio, where his sister Lena was born 22 months later. The family soon returned to Huntington where his dad worked as a foreman for the Kerr Glass Company. His sister Leona was born there about ten years after Lena, and another sister, Betty was born five years after that. As a youngster, he developed a love for horses, hunting and fishing and had discovered a talent for singing and playing country music.
Since Tom Taylor's 1863 play, "The Ticket-of-Leave-Man" with its famed slueth, Hawkshaw, the term "Hawkshaw" had come to mean a detective. From 1913 to 1922 and again from 1931 to the late 1940's there was a comic strip by Gus Mager called "Hawkshaw, The Detective." Apparently, one day while shooting marbles with friends, a neighbor looking for two fishing rods that had disappeared from his garage asked the boys if they had seen them. Harold told him that he had seen two rods that looked the same in another neighbor's garage. A few minutes later, the first neighbor returned with the purloined rods and flipped a fifty cent piece to Harold, saying. "Thanks, Hawkshaw." Harold kept the nickname as a stage name, despite opposition some years later from his first record company.
Hawkshaw Hawkins was an outdoorsman, to be sure. He enjoyed hunting, fishing and horseback riding. Friends and Grand Ole Opry stars like Grandpa Jones, Charlie Louvin, and Stoney Cooper often joined him on these hunting and fishing trips. Hawk always remembered his old friends, even when they weren't able to participate in the outdoor activities, though. Wilma Lee Cooper fondly recalls Hawkins' visiting her husband, Stoney, after his heart attack, one time bringing a chicken for chicken soup. His friends from the early days in Huntington remember his stopping by to visit them whenever he was in town.
He married Reva Barbour of Huntington in 1940. They were both very young (he was barely twenty, she was only sixteen). The marriage was stormy, and after a number of separations and reconciliations ended in divorce in 1958. Their daughter was Marlene. He later married Grand Ole Opry performer Jean Shepard and they had two sons, Don Robin, and Harold Franklin Hawkins II, who was born on April 8, 1963 about a month after the plane crash that took Hawkshaw's life.
Hawkins was described by friends in the business as having Eleven and a Half Yards of Personality. On March 6th, after news of the accident travelled around the world, a fan from England wrote in a letter to the Country Music Association in part, "...Hawkshaw Hawkins in my opinion was the best singer of country ballads next to Hank Williams. He had a voice of amazing depth, quality and realism which could sing a country song better than anyone else." The universal recollection is that Hawkins was a gentleman who treated ladies properly, who did not smoke for most of his life and never drank alcohol. He had a great sense of humor, and onstage was a performer who could easily steal the show with his personality, a good person to work for who was completely professional, but whose flair was never adequately captured on records. He often ended his shows with the phrase "May the Lord take a likin' to you." His recordings, despite their inability to capture all of the magnetism of his performances bear witness that the man with the rich, smooth voice deserves to be remembered for much more than the fact that he died in the same plane crash as Patsy Cline. His family members, the country music family, the nation and the world suffered a great personal loss on March 5, 1963, "the day the music died." May the great legacy of the recordings he left us help to perpetuate his memory and his rightful place in the history of country music. I hope that in some small way, my tribute pages here on the worldwide web will help to do just that.