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Obituary Of Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton, A Tennessee Moonshiner

March 22, 2009

UPDATE WITH “POPCORN” SUTTON VIDEOS…CLICK HERE—watch his old-fashioned memorial service.

As I have stated before, I love a well written, and memorable obituary.  That is why I bring to your attention this great remembrance of Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton from this weekend’s edition of the Wall Street Journal.    I read this while eating breakfast today, and love the imagery that this story conveys.


A scrawny, long-bearded mountain man with a foul mouth and a passing acquaintance with copper tubing and kettles, Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton seemed the embodiment of moonshiners of yore.

Brought up in rural Cocke County, Tenn., identified as one of four “moonshine capitals of the world” in the corn-whiskey history “Mountain Spirits,” Mr. Sutton learned the family trade from his father. The practice goes back to the Scots-Irish, who brought it to the New World, and it wasn’t illegal until after the Civil War, says Dan Pierce, chairman of the history department at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

“This is something that legitimately is an expression of the culture of this region,” Mr. Pierce says.

Like his forebears, Mr. Sutton had brushes with the law, and was first convicted of selling untaxed liquor in the early 1970s. He mostly kept out of trouble after that, though friends say his nickname came from an unfortunate encounter with a balky barroom popcorn machine. But he was well known as a distiller around his native Parrottsville.

He was a familiar figure at the Misty Mountain Ranch Bed & Breakfast in nearby Maggie Valley, N.C., wearing faded overalls and with a back stooped, he said, from decades of humping bags of sugar into the hills. He picked the banjo and serenaded guests on the inn’s porch. He helped decorate the $155-a-night Moonshiner suite at the inn with some still hardware.

Mr. Sutton put a modern spin on his vocation, appearing in documentaries and even penning an autobiography, “Me and My Likker.” Souvenir shops in Maggie Valley sold his video, “The Last Run of Likker I’ll Ever Make,” and even clocks with his image on them.

Other moonshiners have gone legit and cashed in; a former Nascar driver and moonshiner now offers Junior Johnson’s Midnight Moon in Southern liquor stores. But Mr. Sutton insisted on earning a living the old-fashioned way, and in 2007, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives busted him with 850 gallons of moonshine, stored in an old school bus on his property.

He was convicted in 2008 and was due to report to prison Friday, his widow, Pam Sutton, told the Associated Press. Instead, facing the verdict and ill health, he was found dead by Ms. Sutton at the age of 62 on Monday, and authorities suspect carbon-monoxide poisoning, according to the AP. The Cocke County district attorney’s office said it is investigating the death.

Although Tennessee was once a hotbed of moonshine and federal “revenuers” pursued bootleggers through the hills, an attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee in Greeneville says he couldn’t remember the last federal prosecution of a moonshiner.

“Modern-day moonshining is the manufacture of methamphetamine,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg L. Sullivan says. “Tennessee is in the top five states nationally.”

Ms. Sutton discovered her husband in his green Ford Fairlane. “He called it his three-jug car,” she told the AP, “because he gave three jugs of liquor for it.”

157 Comments leave one →
  1. Hunter Comstock permalink
    October 27, 2013 12:16 AM

    Mountain people, Hill Billies and Red Necks are reviled by the so called elites and that is the reason they are persecuted and prosecuted. This is just the curse of the people that work with their hands and by the sweat of their brow have to suffer. This is a fact and always will be. I consider the latter my friends and the former my enemies! Rest in peace Pop Corn.

  2. July 15, 2013 5:49 PM


    You are absurd, and your post is proof of that.

    There is no logic, or more important evidence, to support in any way your slamming comment about law enforcement and drugs. Your statement is simply ridiculous, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

    Next, you should be embarrassed with how little knowledge you have with how laws are made in this nation. Law enforcement does not make laws. They enforce them. Therefore your comment about how laws regarding pot are made is pure bunk. Furthermore you seem fine with illegal booze sales, but fault laws to allow for pot. I in no way am in favor of either, but merely point out the hypocrisy of your statement.

    Next, if you are tired of giving to the rich from your tax dollars than stop voting for Republicans who are not working on your behalf. Stop supporting those who give tax breaks to the wealthy, and do not provide more monies for the social programs that could help you.

    Next, to the charge that no one helps out in time of disaster. You are kidding me, right? Every time a natural disaster strikes this nation reaches out with aid to tornado and hurricane victims, crop disaster funds for farmers in time of drought, and fire forest funds are also available to those impacted from those tragedies too.

    Foreign aid is a very small portion of the national budget, and is a prime tool that we have to influence international events, and limit world events from escalating in ways that would harm our national interests.

    Finally you have to simply joking when you fail to recognize that moonshine is also a drug.

    Might I just assume that when you wrote your comment you had already drank a quart?

  3. July 15, 2013 12:20 PM

    Government has nothing else better to do but go after Americans who try to make a living. Stop drug abuse but most of the law enforcement are in on the take of using and selling drugs. Now they are making it legal for pot smoking ,and soon to be drug companies to get more money for the government. We pay taxes on money we earn, things we buy , and own we are taxed to death. Our lawmakers always want more money for something , its time to quit taking from the poor and give to the rich. We as Americans can use the help to feed our family . Who has helped us in time of disaster , stop sending money to other countries and help this country , help us first. Let people do what they can to feed their families go after drug dealers and countries who make a living making and selling drugs to our kids. What is a little Moonshine hurting.

  4. BIgBrotherSux1 permalink
    June 11, 2013 8:28 AM

    Why doesn’t someone prosecute the biggest illegal drug runners in the nation: the CIA. What a bunch of sold out, satan worshiping, compartmentalized banker stooges! Leave these people ALONE you effing hypocrites. The “authorities” should be arrested for murdering Popcorn.

  5. Joe Sullivan permalink
    April 20, 2013 3:42 AM

    I have only just learned about Popcorn and his Moonshine I have watched the video of his last likker he will ever make since then I cant seem to be able to get his life out of my mind as I came from some old moonshiners but never got into to the life and I can’t help to to keep thinking What a Great American folk Hero he seemed to life his life as a free thinking man did his own thing so to say I would love to come down there and write his life story I myself have always claimed to be a hillbilly cus I love bluegrass but due to life I have been in the big city’s most of my life not able to truly live that life style.. So it would be a good life lesson for me and others I beleave

  6. Lori permalink
    March 15, 2013 3:50 PM

    It ain’t the man it its our government
    And their laws we the people of these United States need to make some laws I mean backwoods redneck laws that is a lot of us haint never been in trouble fur nuttin but we have to follow by someone else’s standards as long as I live popcorn will be forever rembered SHINE ON POPCORN,SHINE ON Pam god be with you

  7. Cameron freeman permalink
    March 15, 2013 1:37 PM

    R.I.P. Popcorn.

  8. billy fred mcvicker permalink
    March 5, 2013 8:00 PM

    I knew popcorn for 30 years he uesed to get my wife and me at smokey view cottages in his A model Car on thanksgiving and take us up to his cabin on the mountian cabin 117 at maggie valley he was A good Man I have lots of old things he gave me my wife passed on dec 1 2012 Billy Fred Mc Vicker

  9. jerry lightsey austin texas permalink
    February 9, 2013 6:21 PM


  10. zabo permalink
    January 24, 2013 9:21 AM

    this man was the perfect picture of what a true american mountain man looked like. god bless you old popcorn sutton and r.i.p. mountain man.

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