Chester spent most of his life in Tennessee before moving to Oxford to live with his daughter

Chester Hawkins bio

Chester Isaiah Hawkins was born October 17, 1964, in Centerville, Tennessee, to Monroe and Ida Hawkins. Monroe worked full-time on the family's dairy, and, as soon as Chester was old enough, he helped out with milking and feeding before and after school.

Despite the hard work, both Chester and his younger brother, Davidson, relished farm life. Childhood friends recall the duo as being rough-and-tumble types more at home outdoors than in a classroom.

In 1967, Ida returned to work as a nurse at Hickman County Hospital to supplement the dairy's slim profit margin, leaving the raucous boys unsupervised after school. Chester was an unremarkable student, but he earned varsity letters in both football and basketball even though he spent a lot of time on the bench because of penalties resulting from his aggressive playing style.

After high school, Chester worked on the family dairy and married his high school girlfriend, Billie Jo Redford, in 1988. They had a daughter, Michelle, in 1990, and the young family lived in a cramped trailer at the dairy. Billie Jo frequently complained to friends about Chester's drinking and temper. In 1995, she filed for divorce and left, taking Michelle with her.

Chester continued taking on more work at the dairy as his father aged, but Chester was a bad financial manager. Bank records show the farm was in debt from 2005 onward.

Ida was growing older, and in 2008 she suffered a series of strokes. Davidson, who by then was working in the New Orleans district attorney's office, pushed to have Ida sent to a retirement home.

When Chester refused, Davidson unleashed a legal torrent and took over Ida's care after a court battle that left Chester bankrupt. Chester sold the farm but was still in debt. He was forced to look for work while living in series of low-rent trailer courts.

In May of 2013, Chester landed in the hospital with alcoholic hepatitis. Davidson was prepared to pay for Chester to reside at a nursing home permanently, but Chester's daughter, Michelle, intervened.

By then a senior at Ole Miss in Oxford, Michelle had been searching for her father since Billie Jo died of liver failure in 2011. With Davidson's help, Michelle got Chester into residential rehab and care until she finished her nursing studies. In 2016, when she was settled with a home of her own, she moved Chester to Oxford to stay with her permanently.

As a hospice nurse, Michelle used her connections in the local medical community to get good care for her father. She paid for his medications, gave him household chores to focus on, and enrolled him in various therapy groups. As a result, Chester's symptoms receded.

In 2017 Chester's paintings were featured in a community center show featuring works of art therapy students, and he continues to use a small shed in back of Michelle's house as a studio.

But in late 2017, Chester began drinking again, and regulars at Proud Larry's said news footage on the TV above the bar often started him muttering about government plots and "state-sponsored massacres."

Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department records show Chester has been cited twice for public drunkenness and misconduct.


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