Thousands Attend Funeral For George Jones - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Thousands Attend Funeral For George Jones

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Thousands of fans lined up Thursday morning prior to the funeral. Thousands of fans lined up Thursday morning prior to the funeral.
Fans listen to the service in the Opry Plaza, which was set up as an overflow area for fans after the Opry House filled up. Fans listen to the service in the Opry Plaza, which was set up as an overflow area for fans after the Opry House filled up.
George Jones' family looks at his casket following the service. George Jones' family looks at his casket following the service.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Thousands of fans joined some of country music's biggest stars in mourning George Jones.

An overflow crowd paid respects to Jones on Thursday at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville during a public funeral. Several country stars and other notable figures sang and spoke during the nearly three-hour service.

Hundreds of fans had lined up, some starting at noon Wednesday, outside the building Thursday morning. Approximately 2,400 fans were allowed in starting at 9 a.m. Anyone who was not allowed in was able to listen to the funeral service in the Opry Plaza.

PHOTOS: George Jones Funeral

The funeral began with opening hymn "Old Rugged Cross" by Tanya Tucker and the Imperials. George's widow Nancy sat on the front row along with George's children, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, and Jamey Johnson.

Barbara Mandrell remembered the kindnesses Jones gave a scared 13-year-old girl just getting her start in the business. And Vince Gill remembered the man who gave him the nickname "Sweet Pea," a moniker he wasn't sure he liked at first but now treasures.

Gill broke down in tears while singing "Go Rest High" with Patty Loveless. The audience gave him a standing ovation while he struggled the song he has sang numerous times.

Other performers included Randy Travis, the Oak Ridge Boys, Charlie Daniels, Travis Tritt, Kid Rock, Brad Paisley, Ronnie Milsap, and Wynonna Judd.  

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and former First Lady Laura Bush made tributes. Opry Vice President and General Manager Pete Fisher along with Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee gave the eulogies.

Other speakers included CBS News Correspondent Bob Schieffer and Kenny Chesney.

His pastor Mike Wilson gave the benediction before Alan Jackson closed out the funeral with George Jones' most popular hit "He Stopped Loving Her Today."

Jones died last Friday at age 81. Hundreds of people came out to the Woodlawn Memorial Park Wednesday night to pay their last respects to him. Some of the most recognizable names in the industry attended the private visitation.

He was in the midst of a farewell tour that was to have wrapped up with an all-star salute in November in Nashville. He postponed two performances two weeks ago and entered the hospital with a fever and irregular blood pressure. He'd been ill off and on over the previous year.

Jones' pure, matchless baritone defined the sound of country music for a half century and his death brought universal reaction from the music community and fans. Known for hits like "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes," "White Lightning" and "He Stopped Loving Her Today," widely acknowledged as the greatest country song, Jones had No. 1s in four decades from the 1950s to the 1980s and "Possum" remained a popular figure in Music City until his death.

Once married to Tammy Wynette, he was the living embodiment of the words "country music star" at the height of his career and continues to have broad influence on the genre, especially with artists who prefer traditional country to today's pop- and rock-influenced sounds.

Jones also had his troubles as he battled substance abuse and money troubles, but always seemed to slide by with his sense of humor and knowing grin intact.

He won a Grammy and two consecutive Country Music Association song of the year awards for "He Stopped Loving Her Today," and was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992. He was among the artists honored in Washington at the Kennedy Center in 2008.

The Beaumont, Texas, native had been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1956, which makes the setting of Thursday's ceremony all the more fitting. The Opry House holds more than 4,000 people and was expected to be filled beyond capacity.

(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)

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