Running booze a way of life on Gulf Coast during Prohibition

The (Biloxi, Miss.) Sun HeraldOctober 2, 2011 

BILOXI, Miss. -- Prohibition, forced on Americans in 1919 by the 18th Amendment, wasn’t a big deal to most Mississippians living on the Coast and in the Southern pineywoods. Skirting laws that restricted drinking was, more often than not, an accepted way of life.

This live-and-let-live attitude of both law enforcers and law breakers had its roots in Colonial times, when pirates plied their trade in the same Gulf waters and the Mississippi Sound. The 20th century saw pirates of another sort, booze pirates with fast boats, fast land transportation and an ingenuity to use them. More important, they were wedded to the community and familiar with the coastline and woods, which made great escapes routes and hiding places for alcoholic contraband.

“Most people don’t realize that Mississippi became one of the first prohibition states on Jan. 1, 1909, and it was one of the last states to repeal prohibition in 1966,” said Charles L. Sullivan, Coast historian, author and professor emeritus at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

In the decade preceding national Prohibition, South Mississippians had learned to maneuver around state alcohol restrictions. By 1919, locals knew firsthand the intricacies of making “shinny,” or moonshine, and “running rum,” or using boats, cars and trains to transport booze. That advance knowledge put them steps ahead of other regions in turning the nationally mandated Prohibition into a profit-making venture.

The Coast roared in the 1920s because of it.

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