Loretta Lynn sadly died on October 4 at the age of 90, after living an incredible life as one of the most iconic and legendary singers in all of country music. Loretta was predeceased by her husband Oliver Vanetta Lynn, Jr., who passed away at the age of 69 in 1996. Loretta and Oliver, who was commonly known as Doolittle Lynn, were married for almost 50 years and had six children together before his death. But their relationship was far from perfect, which Loretta was open about while she was alive.
In the wake of Loretta’s tragic death, HollywoodLife has rounded up everything you need to know about her late husband, and their 50-year marriage, below.
Oliver was a talent manager
Oliver deserves a lot of credit for Loretta’s career in country music. After they relocated to Custer, Washington one year after their wedding, Oliver encouraged his wife to pursue singing by performing at local venues. He also bought Loretta her first guitar, a $17 Harmony. Loretta cut her first single, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” in early 1960, and Oliver was by his spouse’s side as they traveled across the country to promote the hit song. Oliver became Loretta’s de facto talent manager and by 1973 he was named the President of Loretta Lynn Enterprises Inc., which handled Loretta’s businesses. Oliver was also instrumental in Loretta’s first performance at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.
Oliver married Loretta one month after they met
Oliver was 21 years old, and Loretta was 15 years old, when they met. They tied the knot one month later, on January 10, 1948. Oliver and Loretta had ups and downs in their marriage but they stayed together until Oliver passed away in August 1996. Loretta set aside her career for five years to care for her husband before he died.
Loretta and Oliver were featured in the 1980 film Coal Miner’s Daughter, about Loretta’s life. Sissy Spacek played Loretta and Tommy Lee Jones played Oliver. The film won awards at the Oscars and the Golden Globes.
Oliver regularly cheated on Loretta
Before her death, Loretta openly admitted that her husband was guilty of infidelity, alcoholism, and abuse during their five decades of marriage, but she still stood by him. “Doo was a good man and a hard worker. But he was an alcoholic and it affected our marriage all the way through,” she wrote in her 2002 autobiography Still Woman Enough. “He was also a womanizer. Cheating husbands have been all over the news talk shows for a few years now. Lots of women say they don’t understand why women stay with them dogs. My story is about one who did—me.”
In a 2002 interview with CBS News, Loretta claimed that Oliver briefly left her when she was pregnant, and slept with her brother’s wife. She also brought up her husband’s alleged acts of physical abuse. “He never hit me one time that I didn’t hit him back twice,” she said in the interview. Loretta also explained that she stayed with Oliver because he was the father of her children. “I had to think of my kids. I can’t be that selfish,” she said. “He broke my heart lots of time but that woulda broke the kids’ hearts, wouldn’t it?”
The couple had six children together
Loretta and Oliver welcomed six children: Betty Sue, Jack Benny, Ernie, Cissie, and twins Peggy Jean and Patsy Eileen. Two of Loretta and Oliver’s children sadly passed away. Jack Benny drowned on the family ranch while trying to cross their river on horseback in July 1984. He was 34 years old. Betty Sue died from emphysema at the family ranch on July 29, 2013. She was 64 years old.
Almost all of Loretta and Oliver’s surviving children have pursued country music careers. Cissy had her single called “Rodeo Lady” that did fairly well on the charts. Peggy Jean and Patsy Eileen received CMA Award nominations for Vocal Duo of the Year in 1998 and 1999. Ernie’s daughter Tayla Lynn is also a country music star.
Oliver died in 1996
Oliver died on August 22, 1996, five days before his 70th birthday. He passed away from diabetes-related health problems and heart failure. Oliver was buried on the Lynn family estate in Tennessee.
In August 2022, Loretta marked the 26th anniversary of her husband’s death on social media. The “Coal Miner’s Daughter” hitmaker shared two black-and-white throwback photos of the couple, writing, “I lost him 26 years ago today. My biggest fan, my true love, my Doo.”