Dolly Parton’s parents were Robert Lee Parton and Avie Lee. Robert Lee Parton was a farmer and construction worker, while Avie Lee Parton was a homemaker and mother to twelve children, including Dolly.
Despite their challenges, Dolly’s parents instilled a strong work ethic, a love of music, and a deep faith in God that shaped her life and career.
Dolly has spoken fondly of her parents and their influence on her, often dedicating her songs and performances to them.
Dolly Parton’s Father
Robert Lee Parton Sr., known as Lee, was born in 1921 and came from a lineage of farmers. During his early adulthood, he worked as a sharecropper, paying a portion of the harvest as rent to the landowners, making it a challenging and unprofitable venture.
However, in 1951, when Dolly was five years old, Lee acquired his land in Sevier County, Tennessee, where he farmed tobacco and raised livestock.
To support his large family, he also worked in construction jobs. Dolly acknowledged her Father’s hard work and dedication in supporting their family in her 2020 book, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics, describing how he provided for them.
Dolly Parton’s Mother
Dolly credited her mother’s family, whom she called “dreamers,” for giving her the gift of music. Dolly’s mom, Avie Lee, seemed to be of Welsh ancestry and was born in 1923.
Despite having twelve children and frequently experiencing ill health, she maintained the house and amused her children by singing old ballads, Smoky Mountain folklore, and immigrant songs about individuals who had arrived in southern Appalachia over a century ago.
Jake Owens, the Father of Avie Lee, was a pastor at a Pentecostal church where Dolly began giving her public performances at age 6. Jake Owens also played violin and penned songs.
Dolly Parton’s Parents’ Death
The patriarch of the Parton family, Robert Lee Sr, passed away at Baptist Hospital of East Tennessee in Knoxville in 2000 at the age of 79 after experiencing complications from one or more strokes.
Three years after his passing, 80-year-old Avie Lee died, adding another tragedy to the situation.