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Carlene Carter Dedicates Marker Celebrating the Marriage of Johnny and June Carter Cash

Feb. 22, 1968: Rosey Nix, Carlene Carter, Mickey Brooks,
June Carter, Johnny Cash, Merle Kilgore
by VVN Music News Feed

The Kentucky Historical Society has dedicated a new historical marker on the west lawn of the Simpson County Courthouse in Franklin, Kentucky. The marker will commemorate the marriage of Johnny Cash and June Carter in 1968 in a surprise wedding that took place in the Methodist Church across the street from the courthouse.

The honor of unveiling the bronze marker earlier today (June 1) went to someone who was present for the wedding 50 years ago. Carlene Carter, daughter of June Carter and her first husband Carl Smith, was twelve years old when her mother married Johnny Cash. Carlene Carter grew up to enjoy her own successful career as a singer/songwriter and recording artist. She will perform in concert at 3 p.m. tomorrow (June 2) on an outdoor festival stage in downtown Franklin.

"It was truly like the line in ‘Jackson,’ the one where they sing 'We got married in a fever! Hotter than a pepper sprout!'” Carlene Carter said. “The decision to have the wedding in Franklin was made because it was close by and had to do with the fact that there was a wait for a marriage license in Tennessee.

“When they told my sister Rosey and me they had decided to get married but wanted to know if it was OK with us girls, we went into our bathroom and talked about it. But we both loved John so much and saw how happy he and Momma were when they were together, so we decided to say OK!” Carlene Carter continued. “It was very sweet that they asked our permission, but it wouldn’t have made any difference what we said because they were meant to be together.

“My first question was when is the wedding — this was at the end of February — and they said they thought they would wait for us to finish out the school year and we said, 'Why? Why don’t you go and do it now?’ So that is exactly what they did!” Carter recalled. “We got in the car a few days later after getting our dresses and ribbons and flowers in our hair and we stood up next to our Momma and our soon-to-be Daddy!

“We all laughed and cried and took the party back home to the house on the lake! I tried to catch the bouquet, but my cousin Lorrie got it! All the family were waiting at the house, and it was so exciting and beautiful! We started our new life almost immediately and after that our lives would never be the same as they had been.”

Carter concluded, “They were so in love and had been through so much in life to bind themselves on this day for the rest of their lives! I feel so blessed to have been there that day when ‘love came to the town' in Franklin, Kentucky.”

Before the marker was unveiled, Mark Stielper, a friend of Johnny Cash who served as his personal historian, delivered a dedication address from the pulpit of the church where the famous couple tied the knot. Stielper shared some little-known facts about the wedding and the courtship that preceded it. (The Cash-Carter romance was dramatized in the movie Walk The Line in 2006.)

Research for the marker and its production costs were a joint project of the Simpson County Tourism Commission and the Simpson County Historical Society, both located in Franklin.

Dan Ware, director of the local Tourism Commission, said, “We are honored to have Carlene Carter return to Franklin for what would be the golden anniversary of her mother’s wedding to Johnny Cash. Not only was the Cash-Carter union one of the most famous marriages in country music history; it also was a high point in the folklore of our town. Those of us who were here that day have never forgotten it.”

Ware continued, “We are also delighted that Mark Stielper will be here to recall stories about the events leading up to the wedding day. Johnny Cash once said that Mark knew more about him than Cash did himself. I think the audience Friday will come away understanding why Johnny said that.”

The unveiling of the historical marker is the first event of the “Love In Bloom Festival: A Tribute to Johnny and June.” The highlight of the festival will be two weekend concerts featuring not only Carlene Carter, but also three Grammy Award-winning bands – Lee Ann Womack on Saturday and the Kentucky Headhunters and the Charlie Daniels Band on Sunday.