Tammy had many serious physical ailments beginning in the 1970s. She had at least 26 major surgeries during her lifetime. Although some of these problems were often very serious, Wynette was still able to pursue her singing career and regularly toured to promote her work.
In October 1970 after giving birth to Georgette, Wynette had an appendectomy and a hysterectomy. Complications from the hysterectomy included adhesions which later formed into keloids. She developed a chronic inflammation of the bile ducts and was intermittently hospitalized, from 1970 until her death on April 6, 1998. During her brief marriage to Michael Tomlin, she was in hospital for half of their time together as a couple, including surgeries on her gallbladder, kidney and on the nodules on her throat.
Wynette also developed a serious addiction to painkiller medication in the 1980s, which became quite a problem in her life during that time. However, in 1986, she sought help entering the Betty Ford Center for drug treatment that year. In spite of the time away for treatment, she joined the cast of the CBS defunct soap opera “Capitol” on March 25, 1986. Tammy played the role of a hair-stylist turned singer, Darlene Stankowski.
Just after Christmas in 1993, Wynette woke up in the middle of the night with severe pains and was rushed to The Baptist Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, where she lay five days in a coma caused by a bile duct infection. After she survived, she had to undergo yet another operation, an intestinal bypass. She resumed touring not long after. Pamela Lansden of People quoted Wynette’s personal spin on life’s tribulations as “The sad part about happy endings is there’s nothing to write about.”
Wynette’s last concert was given on March 5, 1998 stepping in for Loretta Lynn who was ill at the time. Wynette’s last television appearance was on the TNN series Prime Time Country on March 9, 1998, performing “Stand By Your Man” and “Take Me To Your World”. Wynette’s last Grand Ole Opry appearance was on May 17, 1997; she performed “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad” which was her first top five hit, and “Stand By Your Man” her #1 song and signature song, and her first single “Apartment #9” which had gone to #44 on the Billboard Country Charts but had become a classic to her loyal fan base and to Country Music. Lorrie Morgan and Jan Howard, appeared on the Opry too, helping Tammy out; Tammy was one of Lorrie’s idols growing up (also friends) and Jan, another one of Tammy’s close friends… Jan had a successful career in Country and Western music during the 1960s.
After years of medical problems, numerous hospitalizations, approximately 15 major operations and an addiction to large doses of pain medication, Wynette died while sleeping on her couch on April 6, 1998, at age 55. Wynette’s doctor from Pennsylvania said she died of a blood clot in her lung. Despite her persistent illnesses, she continued to perform until shortly before her death and had other performances scheduled.
A public memorial service, attended by about 1,500 people, was held at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium on April 9, 1998. A private grave-side service had been held earlier with a crypt entombment at Nashville’s Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery. Her death solicited commentary such as that of songwriter Bill Mack, quoted in the Dallas Morning News that she was a “class act” and “irreplaceable” and that “She never knew a flat note.” Lee Ann Womack was quoted also; she said of Wynette, whose songs often evoked strength and controlled passion, “You knew she knew what she was singing about. You can put her records on and listen and learn so much.” Wynette was survived by her husband George Richey, four daughters and eight grandchildren.
In April 1999, her body was exhumed from her crypt in an attempt to settle a dispute over how the country music legend died. A new autopsy was conducted on her a week after three of her daughters filed a wrongful death lawsuit against her doctor and her husband/manager, George Richey, claiming they were responsible for her death 12 months earlier. The coroner declared that she died of a cardiac arrhythmia. In May 1999, George Richey was dropped from the wrongful death lawsuit because George Richey was preparing to sue them for frivolous litigation. Wynette’s daughter, Jackie Daly, sold her story to the Star Magazine before asking George Richey himself the “questions” she wanted answered about her mothers death. George Richey was never personally asked these questions, the daughters sought solace in the Press to garner these intimate personal details of their mother. Wynette was reinterred in the Woodlawn Cross Mausoleum, at Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Nashville, Tenn. She rests in the same Nashville cemetery as other country music luminaries as former husband, George Jones who died in April 2013, Webb Pierce, Jerry Reed, Marty Robbins, Bobby Russell, Porter Wagoner, Red Foley and Eddy Arnold, among many others.
In March 2012, the name on Wynette’s tomb was changed from “Tammy Wynette” to “Virginia W Richardson”, her final legal married name.
In March 2014, the name on Wynette’s tomb was changed from “Virginia W Richardson”, back to “Tammy Wynette”
- May, 05, 1942
- Itawamba County, Mississippi,
- April, 06, 1998
- Nashville, Tennessee
Cause of Death
- Cause of death: Blood Clot (Died in her sleep)
- Woodlawn Memorial Park and Mausoleum
- Nashville, Tennessee