January, 2012. Red Bay, Alabama. Tammy Wynette: Standing By Her Town.

Posted on February 4, 2013


red bay museumWherever we travel, we like to check out the local museum – every little town has a story, and sometimes we get quite a surprise.

And Red Bay, Alabama, was just such a place.  Their museum, run by the local Civitan Club, was located right downtown in a nicely restored building filled with artifacts relating to their specific history.

But it was the Tammy Wynette exhibit on the top floor that intrigued me, as I always thought Mississippi was her home. Thanks to the generosity of her daughters, especially Georgette Jones, there was quite a large collection of artifacts displayed there, including numerous costumes and items from her high school days.photo (6)

It turns out Virginia Wynette Pugh was born and raised in Tremont, a tiny little Mississipi burg a few miles from Red Bay. The Alabama/Mississippi state line ran right through the farm where she was raised by her grandparents, so she was quoted as joking that “my top half came from Alabama and my bottom half came from Mississippi.”

photo (9)Though she graduated from Tremont High School, the town itself was so tiny it only had a couple stores, so she and her family traveled regularly to Red Bay to shop and go to the movies.

She always considered Red Bay “home”, and returned many, many times to perform in benefits for both Red Bay high school various town projects.

My museum guide thought her soap opera-like personal life was partly caused by her rural Alabama background  – there was nothing in that background to prepare her for the personal and professional pressures of fame and fortune.

But on the other hand, that upbringing did instill in her the belief that hard work would lead to success. After high school, Wynette worked as a waitress, a receptionist, a bar maid, and in a shoe factory. In 1963, she attended beauty school in nearbyTupelo, Mississippi, where she learned to be a hairdresser. Even after breaking into the music business, she continued to renew her cosmetology license every year – just in case she ever had to go back to a daily job.photo (8)

According to my museum guide, some of Tammy’s relatives still live in the Red Bay-Tremont area, and locals still very much respect and defend her memory.

After all, she always stood by her town.

Posted in: Travel - Alabama