DYESS, AR (KAIT) - The family of Johnny Cash visited Region 8 Sunday afternoon to celebrate the life of the country music icon with his fans on what would have been Cash's 80th birthday.
The family also came to invite Dyess residents to continue the legacy cash left in his small hometown of Dyess, Arkansas. The family is partnering with Arkansas Heritage Sites office at Arkansas State University to restore the home and community where Cash lived with his parents and siblings for 15 years of his life.
"It's just hard to believe that one man could come out of a little town this like and go nation, worldwide," said Charles Tanner.
The Johnny Cash Boyhood Home restoration is part of a master plan to preserve another piece of history the cash family was part of in 1935 during the Great Depression. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal relocated families to the Dyess Colony, an agricultural settlement. Ray and Carrie Cash moved their four children, Roy, Louise, Jack and J.R. (Johnny Cash) from their home in Kingsland, AR, to a new house, with 40 acres of land, a mule and farming seed.
Cash's parents had three more children, and Cash lived in the home with his family until 1950 when he graduated from Dyess High School and joined the Air Force.
Dyess mayor Larry Sims hopes the double dose of history will revitalize his town of 410 people.
"The census we just had went from 515 down to 410, so we know we're going to have to do something and this I think will start bringing people in."
ASU project coordinators say the project costs $7.4 million and is expected to create 110 tourism-related jobs after it is completed in 2013. Infrastructure restoration and construction will total $3.4 million, and includes the Cash home and outbuildings (barn, smokehouse, chicken coop, outhouse), visitor services, the Dyess Colony Theater, Dyess Colony Administration Building, a walking/biking trail and signage.
Endowment funds included in the restoration project total $4 million for scholarships, educational programs and building preservations.
The Cash family believes the project is a huge honor to the legacy of Cash, as well as his parents Ray and Carrie.
"My sister Joanne and I are the last two siblings, and we're just overjoyed about what's going on, and the restoration of our old home place is very exciting for all of us," said Tommy Cash.
"My parents would really be proud that we're being honored this way and I couldn't help but think about them all day today and how much they would've enjoyed being here."
For more information about the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home Restoration project, visit the Johnny Cash web site here.