Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton
(October 5, 1946 – March 16, 2009)
An American Appalachian moonshiner originally from Maggie Valley, North Carolina. Sutton was given the nickname of “Popcorn” Sutton after damaging a bar’s faulty popcorn vending machine with a pool cue.
Sutton’s career in bootlegging – and getting caught for it – extended back to the 1970s. In 1999, Sutton published Me and My Likker, an autobiography and guide to moonshine production. He was featured in a 2007 documentary Hillbilly: The Real Story, on The History Channel. In 2008, he was featured in the documentary The Last One, filmed by Neal Hutcheson. In November 2010, Hank Williams Jr. announced a partnership (including Sutton’s widow) to distill and distribute Sutton’s whiskey legally for the first time.
Sutton considered moonshine production a legitimate part of his heritage, being as he was Scots-Irish and descended from a long line of moonshiners. In January 2009, after an ATF raid led by Jim Cavanaugh of Waco, Texas fame;Sutton was sentenced to eighteen months in a federal prison for illegally brewing spirits and possession of a firearm as a felon. Sutton, 62 and recently diagnosed with cancer, pleaded with the U.S. District Judge to let him serve his sentence under house arrest. Several petitions were made in attempts to reduce or commute Sutton’s sentence, to no avail.
Sadly, Sutton committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning on March 16, 2009, apparently to avoid a federal prison term due to begin a few days later. He traveled to his final resting spot by horse and carriage. We would have loved to sit across the table from this man and share a tipple poured over some of our handcrafted whiskey stones. Boy, the secrets he could have shared.