A 1999 Car Crash Got George Jones to Sober Up for Good
From "No Show Jones" to clean and sober: George Jones abruptly ended a decades-long stint as an alcoholic in March of 1999, after a devastating car crash that nearly cost him his life.
On March 6, Jones was driving just east of Franklin, Tenn., and talking to his daughter on his cell phone when he lost control of his SUV, according to details obtained by CMT. The vehicle crashed into a concrete bridge railing.
It took nearly two hours for a rescue crew to extract Jones from his vehicle, and he was transported to Nashville's Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he spent 13 days — for many of which he was in critical condition. The country legend sustained severe injuries, including a collapsed lung and internal bleeding, and he temporarily had a ventilator breathing for him. But the most worrying injury was to his liver, according to Dr. John A Morris Jr., who updated press on his case, saying, "The liver injury is what we're most concerned about at this juncture."
Though it was originally reported that distraction from the phone call — and not alcohol — was a factor in the crash, authorities subsequently discovered an opened pint bottle of vodka under the vehicle's passenger seat. Two months later, Jones pleaded guilty to DWI and vowed to seek help after a judge approved a $550 fine, but no jail time.
"I'll get my mind straight," the singer said at the time, according to the Tampa Bay Times. "I think there will be no more problems at all out of me."
He made good on that promise. At age 67, Jones got clean and sober for good, even giving up his smoking habit, and continued to tour nearly up until his death in 2013. In an interview that Nancy Jones, the singer's wife of 30 years, gave to the Tennesseean after her husband's death, she described that fateful car crash as a pivotal turning point in Jones' bid to get sober, explaining that she'd confronted him about his drinking just days before the accident.
"He said, 'Let me go in our pasture and pray to God to hit me in the head with a sledgehammer.' And He did. The next thing I know, George had hit a bridge," she recalled.
In the aftermath, Nancy said, Jones struck a deal with God: "He said, 'God if you let me get over this, I'll never touch a cigarette or liquor again.' I was warm all over. This time he meant it."
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