The ACM Awards have established a new honor in memory of one of country’s most iconic artists, Merle Haggard. The Merle Haggard Spirit Award will be presented at the upcing 2016 annual ACM Honors event to a singer-songwriter who exemplifies the tenacity and “uncompromising integrity” of Haggard, creating iconic songs and delivering authentic performances.

The ACM Honors are slated to air Sept. 9 on CBS, hosted by Lady Antebellum.

Haggard was named the ACM’s first Entertainer of the Year in 1970, making him also its first triple-crown recipient, including his Male Vocalist of the Year win in 1966 and Most Promising Male Vocalist in 1965. He won ACM Awards 20 times in his career, as well as the ACM Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award and the Poet’s Award.

"Merle passed shortly after our 2016 awards show and after this year's Special Awards were announced," says ACM Board President Ken Tucker in a release. "That said, there was simply no way the Academy could hold what may be its most heartfelt event — ACM Honors — without creating a lasting way to acknowledge his legacy. Celebrating and encouraging artists whose work echoes Merle Haggard's indomitable spirit is beyond fitting. On behalf of the board, and with the blessing of his family, we are thrilled to create this important honor."

Haggard passed away April 6, 2016 — his 79th birthday — due to pneumonia, of which he suffered several bouts in the last few months of his life, causing him to cancel several runs of shows.

Country Stars Remember Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard's Final Recording: