Country legend Merle Haggard‘s awards shelf is surely full-to-bursting, with a slew of Grammys, ACM Awards, and even a Kennedy Center Honor for “lifetime achievement” under his belt. Yet the lifelong rebel, whose best known song might just be the outlaw anthem “Mama Tried,” has just received one of the most quotidian honors around: a high school diploma.
No, Haggard hasn’t spent the past few years taking remedial algebra and passing physical education courses — instead, his elementary school friend Don Hemingway petitioned the Kern High School District superintendent (home of Bakersfield High School, Haggard’s now-alma mater) to get the singer a diploma. After years of effort, according to the Bakersfield Californian, Haggard was finally presented with his diploma by current principal David Reese prior his show this past Saturday (April 25) at Bakersfield’s Fox Theater.
“But I was only there nine days,” Haggard told Reese, looking (as the Californian put it) “pleased but seemingly mystified.” He already has an honorary doctorate from Cal State Bakersfield, after all.
Hemingway acknowledged that the gesture was more symbolic than utilitarian. In a statement that could just as easily apply to his honorary doctorate as it does his shiny new certificate of high school completion, he said “It’s not like Merle needed this diploma to get a job or anything.”