The Death of Southern Heroes: Historic Funerals of the South

Fans view the body of Hank Williams, reprinted with permission from the John Edwards Memorial Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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The Death of Southern Heroes: Historic Funerals of the South

by Charles Reagan Wilson
Southern Cultures, Vol. 1, No. 1: Fall 1994

"Public ritual, including funerals for prominent regional figures, nurtured the growing popular belief in a southern cultural identity."

Despite pronounced divisions and decades of change, the South and southerners have sustained their identity through institutions, customs, and rituals. Funerals for public leaders and cultural heroes are among the most significant. They affirm the community’s values and continuity: the society will survive its loss. Over history, prominent funerals show how the South’s sense of itself has changed.

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