The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday let stand two decisions affirming the inheritance claims of the lost daughter of country music legend Hank Williams. The case, which now returns to lower courts for final accounting, appears to end the battle of Cathy Deupree Adkinson, a Washington woman who uses the stage name Jett Williams. By some estimates, Hank Williams's music is worth as much as $1 million annually.

The justices, without comment, rejected an appeal to reverse last summer's Alabama Supreme Court decision that awarded the 37-year-old woman a "proportionate share of any proceeds of the estate of her natural father, Hank Williams" from the time the legal action originated -- mid-1985. The appeal had been filed by the woman's half-brother, country singer Hank Williams Jr.

The court also let stand a New York federal appeals court ruling that Jett Williams was entitled to a jury trial on a separate but related issue concerning royalties and copyright renewals. The New York court previously had dismissed her claim because of its lateness, but reversed itself last December in light of the Alabama decision. Until now, royalties have been divided between Billy Jean Williams, the singer's legal widow, and Williams Jr.

Williams Jr. and Jett Williams have never met and have never spoken to one another.

Jett Williams in recent years has pursued a career as a country singer, and last October made her first professional appearance with members of the band that, 40 years ago, backed up her father. She is married to Washington lawyer F. Keith Adkinson, and the couple, when not touring, live on a boat docked at a marina in Southwest Washington.

"Absolutely fantastic, I'm thrilled to death," Jett Williams said yesterday. "But let me also say this: I feel that today is as big a win for my dad as it is for me and Keith."

W. Michael Milom, Hank Williams Jr.'s Nashville lawyer, would not comment yesterday on the court action. Merle Kilgore, personal manager for Williams Jr., suggested that a new legal challenge might be mounted. "The Supreme Court refused to hear the case and we are going to seek remedies elsewhere," he said by telephone from Paris, Tenn., declining to elaborate.

Keith Adkinson shrugged off Kilgore's remark. "They have fought us tenaciously every step of the way for years, so I find those comments consistent with their past actions," he said.

Hank Williams died on New Year's Day 1953, at age 29. He wrote an estimated 150 songs in his brief life, and many of them -- including such standards as "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Hey Good Lookin' " and "Jambalaya" -- remain popular worldwide.

Jett Williams's life, as set forth in court papers filed during the last five years, has had the twists and turns of a plot by Charles Dickens.

Many facts of the case were not disputed: She was born in Montgomery, Ala., five days after Hank Williams's death, to a Nashville secretary, Bobbie Webb Jett. Bobbie Jett, now deceased, named her baby Antha Belle Jett -- and subsequently left for California. The child was left in the care of Hank Williams's mother, Lillian Williams Stone, who legally adopted the girl two years later and renamed her Catherine Yvone Stone. When Lillian Stone died in February 1955, the 2-year-old became a ward of the state.

In early 1956, a Mobile, Ala., couple, Wayne and Louise Deupree, adopted the then 3-year-old, changing her name to Cathy Louise Deupree. During 1967-68 civil court proceedings that involved surviving Williams relatives, the Deuprees were notified that their daughter was a potential heir, but declined to act in her behalf. The judge in the case, Richard Emmet, has since said that the Mobile couple was worried about the emotional toll on their adopted child.

In 1974, the Deuprees told their daughter about her past, since she was about to inherit $2,000 left to her by Hank Williams's mother -- to be claimed on her 21st birthday. The girl graduated from college, became a recreational therapist in Montgomery and spent a considerable amount of time over the next decade attempting to trace her parentage.

She met lawyer-investigator Adkinson in Mobile in 1984, and within a year he had located written proof of her paternity: an agreement signed by Bobbie Jett and Hank Williams, witnessed by Williams's attorney, in which the singer set forth his willingness to support and care for the unborn child. The agreement, according to court papers, first surfaced during the 1967-68 trials. In June 1985, Adkinson held a press conference to announce the existence of a heretofore unknown heir and moved to obtain relevant court records.

Others in the country music establishment were affected by the case. Billy Jean Williams and Hank Jr. were already established as legal heirs. Acuff-Rose Publications, Hank Sr.'s publisher (founded by Fred Rose and country music titan Roy Acuff) was concerned about a clear title to the music. Fred Rose's son, Wesley Rose, died this spring, but the 86-year-old Acuff remains a litigant. Interest broadened further when Nashville's Opryland bought Acuff-Rose.

In September 1985, Williams Jr., Acuff and others sought a declaratory judgment to bar Jett Williams from making any claim on the Williams estate. She countersued in Alabama and filed a separate lawsuit in New York, to seek her share in the assignment of rights to the songs.

In 1987, a Montgomery circuit court narrowed the issue to "what rights an after-adopted illegitimate child has to assert a claim against her reputed biological father's estate." It decided that she had no rights. A year later, the U.S. District Court in New York also ruled against her, noting the lateness of the claim. Another Alabama circuit court, however, had ruled separately in 1987 that the woman was undoubtedly Hank Williams Sr.'s biological daughter.

Last summer, the Alabama Supreme Court, in a 5-2 opinion, said that Jett Williams had been the unwitting victim of a scheme carried out by Hank Williams Sr.'s attorney, the late Robert Stewart, and the singer's sister, Irene Smith. Smith and Stewart, the court stated, "did all that they could, including committing legal fraud, to ensure that {Jett Williams} never discover her identity or any facts material to her claim."

That ruling set in motion the New York court's decision in December to reverse itself. Last month, responding to a motion by attorneys for Williams Jr., the Supreme Court agreed to consider the New York and Alabama cases together. Lawyers for Williams Jr. had argued that the New York court "got caught up in the emotion of the Alabama Decisions and neglected to articulate any standard of review at all."

Adkinson yesterday said he'd met over the weekend with movie producer Bernard Schwartz to discuss what he called a "big screen project" about his wife. Schwartz previously has produced "Coal Miner's Daughter," a biography of Loretta Lynn, and "Sweet Dreams," a biography of Patsy Cline. Harcourt Brace this fall will publish "Ain't Nothin' as Sweet as My Baby," a book about Jett Williams's life.

Merle Kilgore yesterday was asked if he could envision Jett Williams and Hank Williams Jr. meeting -- something he previously had ruled out. "The only reason he's never met her is there's so many legal things involved," Kilgore said. "This case is so complex, and there are so many lawyers."

Said Jett Williams, "I hope we can sit down and talk to each other face to face and one on one and that way we're not talking through people and through the legal system. I hope he'll be able to find it in his heart to handle it, that he'll be man enough to handle it."