Moonshiners and bootleggers are part and parcel of America’s storied history and culture. Moonshiners produced bottles of illegal whiskey or rum from their illegal distilleries. Bootleggers bring the merchandise to their intended buyers and partakers of the best liquor in the world. Sometimes, they are one and the same. With unmatched bravado, what lies between the bootlegger from start to finish of his run is the devil and the deep blue sea. They have to evade the law-state agencies and the US Department of Justice with modified stock cars laboring under a heavy load of bootleg whiskey.
What made these bootleggers tick? Robert Glenn Johnson Jr., who hailed from North California, was born to a family of bootleggers. He had no choice but to become one. So successful was he at bootlegging that he used this as a springboard to win 50 NASCAR races in his career as a NASCAR driver. Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton, a native of Maggie Valley, North Carolina, had a long line of ancestors who were bootleggers themselves. Brought up into the life of one, he became famous because of his self-published guide on moonshine.
A life of danger and crime defined the bootleggers. In the case of Junior Johnson, it ended up well. He was able to extricate himself from the untenable position that he found himself caught up in. For the others like Popcorn Sutton, violence marked their demise. What is undeniable, however, is they have become folk heroes like so many others before them.