Back in Franklin County, Virginia during the 1930s, there were a group of brothers known for their moonshine work. A group of brothers, made famous by the 2012 film Lawless, held a bootlegging operation in Franklin County. They were in constant danger for moving rum during Prohibition because their car could be hijacked or subject to search by law enforcement (who might still take the moonshine). Matt Bondurant, who wrote The Wettest County in The World, the basis for Lawless, stated he always assumed his Grandpa Jack’s business was small. However, it was much grander indeed.
There was a showdown at the Maggodee Creek bridge and it ended with Dep. Charley Rakes shooting his grandfather Jack, as well as his great-uncle Forrest in the stomach. The movie hypothesizes that the Bondurant brothers did work with gangsters from Chicago too and bribed local law enforcement with liquor until Rakes came to town. The brothers were known as a dangerous group with a tough reputation to boot. Today, things have not much changed in the South regarding moonshine crime.
In January 2017, Joe Lewis Edwards III of Georgia was detained for three felonies of concealing, possessing and selling moonshine. He was pulled over on Interstate 75, where the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ASO) detained him. He had all the moonshine in gallon jugs within cardboard boxes. The ASO spokesman, Art Forgey, stated he found these bottles resealed after having been opened and marked with a Sharpie-type pen. Later in May 2017, a moonshine distillery was accidentally found in a Gulfport, Mississippi man’s house. “A distillery that used water heater elements was found just off the living room of his home in Gulfport earlier this year,” Alcoholic Beverage Control Agent Fred Herndon stated. Noah Mobley was arrested for a felony charge during an investigation not related to that. Agents took his distillery and the moonshine as well as detained Mobley for possessing moonshine, the felony he was being charged with. The moonshine activity has even stretched down into Texas too.
As of 2012, moonshine is coming back in places such as East Texas. One particular case, during March 2012, saw the seizing of two stills belonging to one man in New Chapel Hill, Texas. He was given a misdemeanor. The Texas State Historical Association notes that Texas has seen an abundance of moonshine like Franklin County, Virginia since Prohibition days.
“Though their activities were against the law, many moonshiners thought that they were unfairly prosecuted and resented being treated as common criminals,” The Texas State Historical Association said. It may be why alcoholism has been prevalent in the south and the need for faith based rehab centers has risen. But, Texas and Virginia are not the only places where this moonshine activity is occurring.
In March of 2000, a federal and state task force was brought into Rocky Mount, Virginia and North Carolina. Their task was to take down the “big time criminals” that are rising to create real functioning distilleries that can produce thousands of liquor gallons a week. Three persons were charged and more arrests were expected. Rocky Mount is noted as the capital of the moonshine trade. And who do they partner with? Well, Franklin County Virginia, of course.
Back in April 2002, it was reported there was still a functioning moonshine business in Virginia. The government executed their Operation Lightning Strike in order to stop a multimillion-dollar moonshine ring taking place. Over thirty people were charged with twenty-six pleading guilty. The alleged godfather of moonshine, William Gray “Dee” Stanley, was arrested and sentenced to forty-one months in prison. According to authorities, Stanley and others in his family had an illegal liquor business for about thirty years being it was ended.
The operation also took down the Farmers Exchange, which aided in making the moonshine. Earl “Buddy” Driskill Jr., a Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control assistant special agent, said it best about how moonshine crime has not changed whatsoever in the south. “It really hasn’t changed that much,” Driskill said. “I think you have fewer people in it in a bigger way.” Since moonshine crime continues on, this could be proof of a bigger problem with alcohol addiction and the need for faith based rehab centers. However, as Driskill notes, this type of activity will likely continue on.
About the author: Tommy Zimmer is a writer whose work has appeared online and in print. His work covers a variety of topics, including politics, economics, health and wellness, addiction and recovery and the entertainment industry.