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Harris Lee Parcus--The Godfather of North Alabama

Making a Living Making Moonshine


Old Huntsville Magazine is currently working with a major film production company from London, England on doing a documentary about this story the magazine recently published. The story, "The Legend of Harris Lee Parcus," is about moonshining in North Alabama and traces a family's involvement in the business from the early part of the last century. Filming is expected to start in the early part of summer 2006. The story is reprinted here with permission from Old Huntsville Magazine.

Some people have called him a gangster, while others called him the "Godfather of North Alabama". Despite the names, Harris Lee Parcus simply did what he knew best. He provided moonshine, beer and gambling to the people of Huntsville and Madison County.

During his heyday he ran an empire that made and sold thousands of gallons of moonshine a week, bootlegged almost half a million cases of beer a year and ran gambling games where tens of thousands of dollars would be won or lost on the throw of the dice or the flip of a card.

Many people might say Harris Lee was born into the business. His father, Audy Parcus, began making moonshine in the hills of Marshall County as a young boy. After an unfortunate shoot-out with revenuers, he wisely decided to move down river to Annie's Ditch, a community near Triana, where he met his future wife, 15 year-old Evella Suggs.

Audy's family consisted of poor farmers who never seemed to be able to get ahead. Try as they might, there was never any money left. One day Audv's Aunt Bell Patterson called a family conference. "We have to figure out a way to make money," she said. Then, turning to her husband she said, "I've been talking to Audy and in the morning I want you to take some of the men and go with him. We're going to make whiskey."

When Harris Lee was born in 1926, the family was already established in Madison County's moonshine business. During the period of the Roaring Twenties, money was pouring in so fast that often it was carried to the bank in over-stuffed shoe boxes. Then the Great Depression came along and almost put an end to the family business. Although they made good whiskey, people simply no longer had the money to buy it. Audy once spent a whole day trying to peddle his moonshine, but, regardless of the price, people couldn't afford it. At the end of the day he traded a half pint for a can of sardines and some stale crackers.

"Our Daddy wouldn't let my brothers and I around the stills and gambling," remembered Harris Lee. "I learned to make whiskey from my number one whiskey men. Junior Caudle and Hard Rock Walker."

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