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[00:00:00]

This podcast is intended for mature audiences, listener discretion is advised. Now, my dad had a 1968 Oldsmobile with a convertible top. And I remember that those was part of my grandmother's house right there, a mile or so, two o'clock in the morning, opened the boot to get a jacket and hopefully get another the. And when I open that boot, the first thing I seen was cement blocks and coat hangers in a hit man. Now the news is had come out about him floating two days before.

[00:00:48]

And this jogger with me was 14, 15 years old, this vetiver guy. I mean, he slammed the shirt and I said, no, he didn't have a jacket.

[00:00:56]

And the gas is all in Boston in there. I try to minimize it.

[00:01:02]

I don't remember what I said, but it scared me to death. We didn't call that night and we walked back to my cousin's house, which is three miles away. And all I could think of was get them and get them there, because in my mind, I knew it. I knew at age 11 that those were cement blocks and the coat hangers that we used. I think that man, all that was on my mind was to warn you so he could rectify his mistake and my mistake of taking him to the car and allow them to see what was in it.

[00:01:38]

I felt like I had screwed it.

[00:01:46]

I said, did I need to talk to you? And I said, I need to talk to myself. He had the strangest look on his face. I heard let me talk to him. So she walked out of the bathroom and they never forget the look on his face.

[00:02:02]

I said, Daddy, Mr.. We had a flat tire, Ausbil, pop side grannie's, and when I knew they were cement blocks and coathangers in there and it's 14 year or more that I had seen them black holes the fast, I could barely see them.

[00:02:24]

And I seen the alarm and he said, whoa, why are you telling me that?

[00:02:31]

Because daddy, I mean, just has floating in that river. And he tried his best to take that knowledge from me. He said, oh, son, no, you thank you. Roll them, blocks them. So we had to also give me some lame stuff about what they had to do. So.

[00:02:53]

So but he addressed pretty fast. Phyllis Thunderbirds was a whiskey man, he was a bank robber. He was a hit man. It was a murder. He was the enforcer for the Dixie Mafia. He's also my father. For almost a decade, the Dixie Mafia were an unstoppable ragtag crime syndicate in the southeastern United States in what began as a small backwoods bootlegging operation quickly escalated to bank robbery, jewelry heists, drugs, betrayal and murder.

[00:03:59]

Before it's all said and done, more than 50 people will be dead at the hands of one man alone. The most notorious man you've never heard of. Dixie Mafia hit man Billy Sunday, Bert. From Imperative Entertainment, this is in the red clay. Despite being a well-known and much feared member of his small community, Bert managed to evade capture because everyone knew if you were a witness to any one of burts crimes, you simply disappeared. I'm going to go out on a limb here and bet you've probably never even heard the name Dixie Mafia before, it's not exactly a household name like the Italian mafia has made famous in American pop culture by movies like Goodfellas, The Godfather and more recently, The Irishman.

[00:05:08]

But if by chance you have heard the name. What you've heard is wrong. Most of what's out there is based on pure speculation, word of mouth or bits of misinformation that have been pieced together over the years and passed around the Internet. The Deep South has always been home to a special brand of outlaw. In the 1960s, a home grown crime cartel rose to power and ruled this swampy underworld for decades. The Dixie Mafia, this group of organizers, that clip you just heard is from a Discovery Channel series from a few years back, and there was a movie made in 1973 about a McNairy Tennessee professional wrestler turned sheriff named Buford Pusser, who waged a One-Man war on moonshine, prostitution and gambling until his murder in 1974 dropped off.

[00:06:04]

We're going to learn how to grow. Walking tall, a story of a real man. Who has become a living legend? The media called the group responsible for his death, you guessed it, the Dixie Mafia. A term coined by ATF special agent Jim West while giving an interview to a local newspaper in 1970, the name stuck and quickly spread throughout the South. And let's be honest, for some, the word Dixie might conjure up images of some rebel flag waving white sheet wearing hillbilly.

[00:06:43]

But that's not the case here. These were country boys, but they were smart. Smart enough and dangerous enough to get the attention of JFK's brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who sent ATF special agents to northeast Georgia and then Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, who would implement his anti bootlegging campaign dubbed Operation Dry Up. All told, in northeast Georgia alone, there would be nearly 200 agents from the CIA, FBI, ATF, GBI, local and state law enforcement involved in trying to bring the group down.

[00:07:24]

But what's the real story then? Who were these guys and where did they come from? Well, that begins in Georgia in nineteen sixty five during our country's last real boom in illegal liquor production or moonshining. But to fully understand how this all went down, you have to know what America was like in the mid 60s and this is where our story begins.

[00:07:55]

The year of nineteen sixty five, three hundred and sixty five days each with headaches and heartaches, death and destruction, laughter and tears and the tears flowed all over the world.

[00:08:06]

In 1965 was one of the most pivotal years in modern American history. Astronaut Ed White makes the first U.S. space walk in Gemini for the beautiful like a down.

[00:08:22]

Just after you left the three o'clock along the Eastern Seaboard product, White had opened up a new frontier for Americans to explore. The Beatles perform the first ever stadium concert in the history of rock music at Shea Stadium in New York City. Here are the Beatles. And Sandy Koufax pitch is a perfect game against the Chicago Cubs. But 1965 was a turbulent year, too. On March 8th, 3500 U.S. Marines stepped foot on the shores of Danang. They were the first wave of U.S. combat troops to enter the Vietnam War.

[00:08:59]

And at home, America was at war with itself as much as it was with Vietnam. Violent anti-war protests draw 100000 people in 80 cities across the country. State troopers clashed with civil rights demonstrators in Selma, Alabama, in what became known as Bloody Sunday. Violation of section, I mean, I got a city code demonstrating that, right, without a permit in the United States, federal government once again waged war on illegal alcohol. This was a big deal, especially in the South, because not since the prohibition era of the 1920s had the federal government gone to such lengths to stop the production and sale of illegal alcohols like whiskey, brandy and beer.

[00:09:52]

Local and state police, along with FBI and ATF agents, were tasked with locating and destroying liquor stores throughout the southern states, namely Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and the Carolinas, along flouride roving what I get from state.

[00:10:14]

You have to say every other house on the left, you stop this house, you get lined up and go, next you find.

[00:10:27]

Agents worked tirelessly to bust illegal beer joints in whiskey haulers and would stake out suspected liquor store locations, often silently watching through the night, whether it be in the nauseating humidity of the summer or the dead of winter. An agency post might require him to spend all night laying on the forest floor as still and quiet as possible waiting for a bootlegger to show intent is still. Clyde Vinson, a pioneering African-American lawman in Shelby County, Tennessee, recalled once laying on a snake all night while watching Lucasville.

[00:11:04]

He couldn't move for fear of being detected. But why go through such lengths to stop a few people from making booze out in the middle of the woods? Why does it really matter? The answer? In twenty eighteen, revenue from alcohol tax amounted to ten point six billion dollars. It's reported that bootleg liquor costs the US government upwards of 200 million dollars per year in untaxed sales. The irony in all of this, though, is in the 1960s, most of the people making the liquor had little to no money to start with bootlegging, supplemented their farming income.

[00:11:48]

And at times it was the only source of income they had. 90 year old John Party recalls what life was like back in them days.

[00:11:58]

Back in them days. And Michael, if you didn't make a good cop back then, you have had to find some way and that's just what it was, a way to make a living.

[00:12:14]

Any way that you can make enough money to feed your family, even if it meant breaking the law was worth doing, when times get tough enough and everybody depend on me and the merchants and the pain and hey, I get this, I have a front yard and a chair in their service station.

[00:12:31]

They benefit from it. And it's part of the problem is that they didn't know what to say.

[00:12:37]

And I commented after moonshiner, that mentality especially rang true to those people who lived through the Great Depression. For many bootlegging, which got its name from the Civil War, soldiers who snuck whiskey into camp and small flasks hidden in their boots became a way of life. But it would often bring with it criminal enterprise.

[00:12:59]

Case in point, Prohibition era Chicago brought mobsters like Al Capone and Babyface Nelson, among others, because where there is illegal, untaxed money being made, especially from liquor, there are bound to be gangsters sooner or later. But this time it wasn't Chicago and it wasn't Al Capone.

[00:13:21]

It was just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, in the sleepy little farm town of Wonder, if you may Andy Griffith Show, little more realistic is close. Everybody knew everybody, you all, you know, in any town store, no matter who you are, you saying you know them, the mother, the grandmother, and they was just kind of a camaraderie between people.

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Everything was just goodwill. It was slower. You could have compared our lives to what it was like in Mayberry.

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It's the kind of small town that reminds you of an old black and white movie, a time before Facebook and Instagram, cell phones and GPS, the kind of place where even the police know people by their first name, where they work and their kids probably go to school together.

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At least that's how it feels. And you'd be hard pressed to find a building more than two or three stories high.

[00:14:26]

It's a far cry from Los Angeles where I lived for nearly two decades.

[00:14:31]

It's small. Quiet, friendly. When I arrived there in early March of twenty nineteen, I had no idea what secrets that little town held. Or that that quiet little town would soon change the course of my life. Deep in the conservative south of 1970s Atlanta, Mike Thebus, the son of Greek immigrants, was a man driven by endless ambition. He had everything a wife and five kids, the largest mansion in Atlanta, and a rumored 100 million dollar fortune.

[00:15:15]

But the success came at a price as the community shunned him and he became entangled in a web of murder, mob connections and love affairs.

[00:15:26]

It is the money, obviously, that attracts organized crime.

[00:15:30]

I don't have any knowledge as to what happened to Mr. Hanna. He was a personal friend of mine, and I just think it's a terrible tragedy.

[00:15:38]

There's no doubt in my mind that they are nervous at first about having to do business with Mike Leavis society.

[00:15:45]

Do not take it seriously when criminals kill each other. So Mike Thebus walked out this door to freedom. Some are speculating he may be in Colombia or Costa Rica, countries which before have harbored United States criminals.

[00:15:58]

This is Gangster House, the unbelievable story of Mike Thebus family man and the so-called Sultan of smut.

[00:16:08]

Listen and subscribe to Gangster House right now on Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts. I was working as a location manager on the HBO series The Outsider with Jason Bateman, part of my job was to go to Wigner a week before the rest of our crew and get things ready for us to film their. I would be the liaison between the town and the production, so I needed to meet as many people as I could, one day I stepped into the Corner bookstore on Jackson Street near the main intersection of town.

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The place was filled with row after row of shelves, neatly packed with used books, not borders, but I actually like the small town bookstore. The friendly middle aged man approaches me and asks if I need help. I explain why I'm there and a woman who I assume was his wife, who had emerged from the back room, offered me a place to sit and insisted on brewing a pot of coffee for me. There's that Southern hospitality you've heard about.

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I sat at a table covered with stacks of folders and papers, miscellaneous office supplies, which they hurriedly pushed to the side to clear spot for me.

[00:17:36]

We chat about all of the movies that have been filmed around the area over the years, how Georgias, the new Hollywood, we talk about local places to see local history and eventually they ask, have you ever heard of the Dixie Mafia? I actually had. I lived in Memphis for a short time in my early 20s, and I remember hearing that name in passing but hadn't thought about it since. I mean, why would I? It seems like people still talk about it from time to time.

[00:18:06]

I mean, is that true? I was on a plane with this guy telling him about Dixon Mockingbird's and he got infatuated with this ex-wife, the way I understand it covered the South.

[00:18:24]

They want to tell me the son of Billy Byrd, the infamous leader of the Dixie Mafia, makes whiskey right here in town just a few blocks away. Several people tell me I should talk with him.

[00:18:36]

I'm told he's very nice and very. Interesting. As I left the bookstore, I'm asked if I want to buy a copy of the self published book this man wrote about his father, but I pass after all, that's not why it was there. And as it turns out, I would end up meeting this man they were talking about, but only by chance. Over the next few days, I made my way through the town and continued to meet residents and business owners and eventually found myself searching for a parking lot to store some film equipment.

[00:19:13]

I came across an old building that was partially under construction, there's a small gravel lot next to it that has a huge mound of wooden railroad ties and miscellaneous piles of junk and wooden boards that look like they were part of some turn of the century barn, the kind in TV host would die for.

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There's a large black sign above the door that reads rock solid in gold block letters. I walk over and knock on the door and a large man answers. Now, I say large, as in both physically and in personality, he's a little intimidating at first, standing at six foot or so with white slicked back hair and piercing blue eyes that squint narrowly in the sun. And a cigarette hangs from his lip, he wears a pair of faded, frayed blue jeans in his white collar dress shirt is so wet with sweat you can see through it.

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And he's covered in drywall dust and spatters of paint. And when he reaches out to shake my hand, holy shit. I've got big hands, but when I tell you that this man has big hands, I think Andre the fucking Giant big.

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The polite, talkative 60 year old speaks quickly in matter of factly in a thick Southern accent. As we chat, I learned working night and day to build his dream, a distillery right here in the heart of Winder, a block away from the town's quaint little courthouse. He says it is to be his legacy.

[00:20:49]

Apparently, the whiskey recipe he uses has been passed down in his family since before the Civil War. But something seems all too familiar about this. The distillery making whiskey, a very interesting man.

[00:21:05]

I asked if his name is Bert by chance.

[00:21:08]

And sure enough, this was the man I'd heard about from the owner of the bookstore. Billy Stonewall, Bert Stoney, for sure, almost immediately and without hesitation, Stoney begins to tell me about his father.

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My father lost excitement. That's how gambling it was just more adventurous.

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We talked for a while and eventually I have to leave. But later on, I find I can't stop thinking about Stoney in the stories about his father. I find him oddly entertaining and captivating somehow and I want to hear more. So I stop by periodically through the next few days. Each time he offers me a drink of whiskey or peach brandy that he's made.

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I love you do if you don't take a sip until ever gets better.

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He casually spits out anecdotes about his father's exploits as if he's been practicing. He tells of how his father robbed banks and at least five states, how he once blew up a local liquor store with dynamite because the clerk was rude to his wife or how he broke into the evidence room one night at the old sheriff's station across the street to retrieve a gun used in a murder. He pulls out a thick black leather binder and shows me the newspaper articles. He's clipped and preserved in cellophane, making sure I know he isn't full of shit.

[00:22:35]

He shows me the copper still that he makes his whiskey in, which is awesome. By the way, it's been in his family since his great grandfather, Pink Hagood, built in in 1860. And one of the most impressive things he shows me, being a car lover is his Royal Blue 1970 Turino Cobra Superjet muscle car.

[00:22:58]

And this car here was one of the cars that your dad was it? It was get the sikelel.

[00:23:04]

This is called 185 loaded for me and Pretty Woman sitting right here, my 13 year old son Clinton in the back. Her out.

[00:23:21]

Stoney loves talking about his father, in fact, he's proud of who his father was. It seems. And that was what our conversations inevitably circle back to his father, he was the best family man you could ever want to meet any time he's seen a family without Christmas, a family who had it.

[00:23:44]

But because of a light bill, he would take whatever it took and help them. It would just have to help people.

[00:23:52]

But wait a minute. Are we talking about the same guy here, the same guy that blew up buildings with dynamite and probably at one time or another had dead bodies in the trunk of his car along with the illegal liquor he was hauling? And just like that. I was hooked. I had to know this man's story. I tell Stoney this sounds like a movie, and he admits to me that he's been approached several times by people wanting to do just that, make a movie about his father and the Dixie Mafia.

[00:24:25]

But there's a problem with that. Stoney comes from a different time and place than most of us, he's cut from a different cloth altogether. She can't tell you the difference between a touchdown and a home run, but he can tell you the odds of pulling an inside straight a game of seven card stud with three players.

[00:24:49]

His father had a set of rules to live by that were instilled in him almost from birth, a sort of. Gangsta's code, he had ethics and code that made him unusual, he would not like hailer trust is a big thing Testoni.

[00:25:07]

Maybe the biggest thing. I could tell each time I stopped by that he was sizing me up. Figuring me out. Thinking. What's his motive? Each time he would get slightly more comfortable with me. But the people that had come from Hollywood to try to get the rights to his father's life story, well, Testoni they were mostly arrogant assholes. Those are his words. And they were just trying to get rich off this country bumpkin. Again, his words.

[00:25:41]

For some reason. Stoney's seem to like me, though. I could tell that he wanted to tell his story while he had self published that book called Rock Solid The True Story of Georgia's Dixie Mafia, which you can buy on Amazon. He really only covered what you could find in the local newspapers and was more or less written to pass down to future generations of his family so that the story of his father wouldn't be lost after he was gone.

[00:26:11]

But I knew there was a lot more to tell. He knew much more than he was letting on, so I approached Sony with the idea of telling the stories of his father's life and the Dixie Mafia in a podcast. His response was a podcast. At first, he was skeptical, but eventually he agreed on one condition, I would tell this story exactly the way it happened. But who was this man that I've heard so much about from St.. Where did he come from and how the hell did he become what law enforcement would call the deadliest man in Georgia history?

[00:26:53]

And most people, including myself, have never even heard of him. All, Margaret, tell me why we don't need we need we don't need Wardrop, we need more.

[00:27:25]

Got it was the Billy Graham of the 20s, 30s and 40s in my dad, his mother said lost all by what they it was born. She named Billy Sunday. Always was Goffer woman immediately was raised red. He just got caught up in the way. There's so many similarities between them. They're both charismatic, they were both athletic, they were both extraordinary in their abilities. They were her wish was for him to become a male, I believe, Sunday.

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But that's why he that he was my grandmother's wish, that he became a preacher, a good man. Let the best man you know better said America needs a tidal wave of the old time religion.

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America needs to be taken down the gospel house. And behold, I turn on her and the time isn't far. Just on the heels of God's judgment, our going to go sweeping through this old God hating world. And I want to take a page in this audience to join me in a pledge that you will never rest until this all God hating, Christ hating, whiskey soaked, Sabbath breaking, blaspheming, infidel bootlegging. All world is bound to the cross of Jesus Christ by the golden chains of love.

[00:28:37]

Billy Sunday Bird was born in a small farmhouse in Hashd in Georgia on August 12th, 1937. His parents, Claude and Eunice Bird, were sharecroppers, Stoney explains. Everybody was poor, and here's the thing about the crop that time of year when you took your crop in the landlord who you sharecrop row would take it to market, he would sell it, he'd get the receipt, he would have the seat to worry about the seed and fertilizer from the hardware store.

[00:29:14]

He would do the same fertilizer from the money of the sale of the crop. And then he split 50 50 with a sharecropper.

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The family moved around a lot. They had very little money. And Claude would often move the family into an abandoned shotgun shack where they would stay until the law happened. The law kicked them out. He would load the family up into their wagon along with their meager possessions, and head out in search of another abandoned home. The hole up in. The South was littered with these types of shotgun shacks at the time, the family moved 17 times in just one year.

[00:29:55]

Claude and Eunice were good Christian people, though Claude thought his children right from wrong concentrated much of his teaching on his oldest son, Billy. He taught him to respect his elders, not to judge others, for you never know what they might have been through, and that a man either takes care of his family with the basics of food, shelter, love and self-sacrifice, or he doesn't. Younus used the Bible to teach her children morals and ethics and would constantly tell Billy that you reap what you sow sevenfold before you leave this earth for then you must pay for what you've done there.

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Claude Newnes often struggled to make ends meet and provide for their eight children, Billy, his younger brothers, Ray, Jimmy and Bobby, and their four sisters.

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When you sold your crop, that was all the time in the whole year that a man could take his family tail and buy two or three outfits of clothes. Hey, here's what it would be. It would be repair of coverall overalls, three cotton shirts, three pair of socks.

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One pair of Bergin's programs were a cheap leather work boot, but my dad's family was too poor.

[00:31:17]

Now, them shoes had led you to the next year and they never did. The Great Depression had just ended, but times were still extremely hard, the children were needed on the farm to work the cotton crop and often could only go to school a couple of days a week if they were lucky. And Billy, who was born with a speech impediment, didn't care much for school anyway. The family struggled so much at one point they didn't have enough to eat but one meal a day.

[00:31:50]

This prompted six year old Billy Burke to take matters into his own hands and commit his very first crime. He stole a dollar out of the schoolteacher's purse to buy him and his sister something to eat. He wasn't caught, but it seemed not to be a smart thing to try again, you might not be so lucky next time. A year later, with times getting even harder, Billy would steal again, though out of necessity this time. It was a sandwich and it was this one girl.

[00:32:23]

He says he remembers her lucky yesterday and her family was well-to-do as she was praying. The best looking sandwich that you have ever seen. This girl, she would only eat one sandwich and dangle the rest for the people say, and at three o'clock when school let out, she go where the bus would pull up. And she said the last bus right there on the beach when the bus pulled and she took the sandwich out, put it on top, that's about torture.

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Her mother, they say it was the sandwich for two weeks. And in his mind, he ate it many times. And this one day he said he just couldn't take it. He said he can't. Nobody looking at this sandwich to get behind school eating this damn sandwich. He said, remember that day? He said it was an egg sandwich, had mayonnaise, which was also unheard of. He said, well, you get back around. Nobody's seen it.

[00:33:22]

Nobody's seen it by loaded little girl Paula. She come and miss that sandwich. And he he said you would have thought her mom and dad had got killed in a car wreck. She pitched all hell, broke loose.

[00:33:35]

Billy would continue to steal food when he had nothing to eat and couldn't take the hunger pains anymore. But things would soon go from bad to worse for the Berg family.

[00:33:46]

When he was just nine years old, Billy's father, Claude, died suddenly of either a heart attack or a stroke. No one's really sure Eunice was left with trying to provide for her family alone, which seemed a near impossibility. Soon after Claude's death, the man owned the farm they sharecropped on. At the time, Mr. Morgan delivered a crushing blow to the struggling family. He claimed that Claude had borrowed money from him shortly before he died and since Younus had no money to pay him back, he was taking the cotton crop they had harvested that year.

[00:34:20]

That's their livelihood. That was everything to them. He even took the hogs and the piglets and left the grieving widow with eight children and no way to care for them. This act of cruelty left a huge impression on young Billy.

[00:34:37]

He vowed to himself that one day he would get back at the man. The family was left with no choice but to move in with Eunice's parents, Henry Pink Hogwood, whose brother fought and lost a leg in the civil war, and Ginnie Mae Presley. Hogwood, who, believe it or not, was actually related to Elvis Presley. Billy's brother Ray, in his later years, would bear a striking resemblance to Elvis. In 1949, youngness married a man named Pete Phillips, who operated a bulldozer at the county landfill, and things started to finally look up for the family.

[00:35:21]

Pete rented the Jackson farm on Chicken L'Isle Road in Barrow County because it was across the county line. It meant the children would go to a new school, though only two to three days a week, because they still had to work the farm. At 12 years old, Billy still couldn't say his ABCs or even write his name. Like most of his siblings and times, though, they were getting better.

[00:35:45]

We're still tough in school.

[00:35:49]

They had no socks. And the teacher there, she seen him not go out pee and she said, Billy, why don't you go on to so that I'll just stay here. Yeah, well, she she she could see that they would go she's a how you think he held it up. She seemed bare feet so she took him in a little closet and there she could have pasteboard. Put in the bottom of it and the teacher took her own socks off and give to him as I guess a heart went out to him and he said many times has left that lady is probably the closest thing to an angel on this earth he ever met and probably ever will.

[00:36:32]

And he loved her dearly. At age 13, Billy quit school and got a job at a local sawmill to help Pete provide for the family. He made 60 cents an hour. That's twenty four dollars a week. Keep in mind, this time a new car was only about sixteen hundred dollars. So it was pretty good money. At age 16, he got an offer through a family friend named Ernest Palmor to work at the Lay's potato chip factory with him in Doraville, a neighborhood of Atlanta.

[00:37:05]

It would be more money, so he took the job. This would be a monumental turning point in Billy Burts life, but he didn't know it yet. After a few days on the job, a middle aged woman walked over to the area Billy was working in separating potato chips as they moved along a conveyor belt. She didn't know Billy, but she already didn't like him. It seems he filled the position she was hoping to get for her grandson.

[00:37:33]

So she told their boss that Billy was eating potato chips off the conveyor line, which he admits he was. But this was a health code violation and he promised not to do it again. A few days later, the woman again told the boss Billy was eating chips off the line and he was fired from Liz. But the woman had lied and cost him a good job as he left, she gave him a dirty smirk. Billy decided right then and there he wasn't about to let her get away with it.

[00:38:10]

He got to thinking about that. So what to do about two hours with the. He had a watch when they come out, what car you want to. Well, she would do if it weren't for a black one. So he is not going home the next day he got away up there and while she was working, he took a gallon of gas. Burst out the wind and pulled her. Took a big hit. But he didn't leave.

[00:38:45]

He wanted to see her come out and sure enough, she did. He said, oh, she was ranting and raving and screaming and hollering like she was on fire. He said, but it doesn't look good. He said, in my mind, that's my first act of vengeance, that it felt pretty damn good.

[00:39:07]

But Billy Byrd wasn't finished yet. He said it would have been ended.

[00:39:15]

But but a month later, I'm ran down the road with my cousin Ralph Black and my brother Bobby Burt.

[00:39:21]

And I come by this house and hear that old bitch was backing out of a driveway in a new Henry J.

[00:39:31]

Brand. And I say that. And I said to myself, damn insurance company, give her a new car and start eating only.

[00:39:42]

Well, she pulled it and it down the road going to church because little. I moved around, Ralph, mom didn't know nothing about this. Now all they know, I just hope ran and pulled back in this house. I figured it was hers, so I just kicked out. No one in there took a few things I thought were four down, stuck around the house to let it burn and that pretty good.

[00:40:11]

But for some reason, it just wouldn't get out of my system. I got like by her rat and ran that, you know, I'll be there if I get one day and fired that sucker, too.

[00:40:26]

He burned a car twice. He burned down her house, and that was his first act of vengeance.

[00:40:33]

In that moment, all of the hateful, vengeful things buried deep inside of Billy came bubbling to the surface. Every time he had been screwed over in life, every bad hand he had been dealt and just like that, the dark side of Billy Sandpapered was born, Billy would often wonder later in life had he not been fired from his job at Lei's, how different, what his life has turned out.

[00:41:04]

Billy went back to work at the sawmill for a few years, and at age 17, he would meet a young girl who will call Jenny because Stoney asked me to keep her name out of this podcast for personal reasons. Parts of the Burt family have become somewhat disconnected since all of this went down. But not long after meeting, they were married. Jenny was only 13 years old. Billy eventually got a job at the Gainesville Stone and Rock Quarry. You now had a wife to care for, and though he was making good money at the quarry.

[00:41:37]

Billy also made a little extra on the side. They pay top dollar, but they still supplemented it with moonshine, making moonshine was a skill Billy learned from his grandfather, Pink. It's a fairly simple process of fermenting cornmeal, sugar, yeast and water into what's called mash and then slowly heating the remaining liquid to distill it into clear alcohol. Billy would soon begin helping his new father in law magically make whiskey being highly illegal. They had to do it, usually under cover of night and in remote, off the beaten path, places like a secluded farm deep in the woods.

[00:42:17]

It was easy money, but that easy money would soon come at a price. Like the night that Billy and Mack were making whiskey under a bridge on the banks of the Apalachee River.

[00:42:30]

Two man was crossing the bridge from Monroe coming in the back, and then my grandfather on my mother's side was laying under the bridge with a woman. And they were both drunk. She was passed, absolutely, grandfather. Well, the man looked down there and saying the truck was blown. My grandfather saying my father stopped minute and they looked and they seen on the sandbar. That lady lived there with my grandpa. To make another long story short, they decided they will take on stony means.

[00:43:07]

The men wanted to rape the unconscious woman.

[00:43:10]

My grandfather kept a gun under his truck seat. It must have been something like a forty nine chevallier for old truck. My father got in the truck, come out the gun, kill him out. But for the first time he ever killed anybody. This was 1960. The man is still buried on that riverbank. Billion.

[00:43:30]

Mack buried the two men there somewhere on the banks of the Apalachee River and left never to speak of it to one another again. Mack decided his whiskey making days were over, but Billy had developed a taste for the easy money, excitement and danger the bootlegging lifestyle provided, he soon partnered up with another man, a highly skilled whiskey kingpin named Hoak Chancey.

[00:44:03]

He made the best list in the most western Georgia from 1958 through 1964, right here, one Georgia until it turned upside down in a freak accident.

[00:44:14]

Kubi When Hope died, his son Harold left veterinary school at the request of his mother, Ruth, to come home and take over the family business. And Harold was a natural.

[00:44:25]

Pearl was very, very good at making a whiskey, and he took to it more than my daddy because my daddy did not enjoy making whiskey and his words then work hard as hell. I'd rather take an ass kicking me working that looked through the dough. We will. And Harold took his father's moonshine operation to a whole new level.

[00:44:45]

By this time, Billy Burt was making money hand over fist. He could now afford things he never thought possible, like expensive jewelry and new souped up muscle cars to haul the whiskey in. It was an entirely different lifestyle than what he knew growing up. He now had children at home, and his young wife, Jenny, ask no questions as long as the money kept coming in. He was selling and hauling whiskey all over the south.

[00:45:13]

While Harold struggled to keep up the demand, they were making hundreds of thousands of gallons and supplying Georgia, North and South Carolina.

[00:45:22]

Billy started making money in other ways, too. He gambled in illegal card games nightly, and he had now become known around town as a man who could discreetly get things done for you. No questions asked for a price. He purchased the Winter Recreation Parlor, an unassuming pool hall in downtown, to use as his base of operations and now spent most of his time there gambling until sunrise. He was on top of the world and there was no turning back.

[00:45:54]

Philibert would do whatever it took to never be poor again. A woman was told by Burt Villy, never been in a danger less. And that's true. He was guilty of a lot, awful lot, do you think it's your son? Oh, I can't believe you're there. Why? Why do you think so? Well, he was right. Blue pants with laughter And that's what that guy, FDIC said. He wore blue pants home. And he's been missing since when?

[00:46:35]

November four. And you don't know if he was involved in any sort of trouble. I know of.

[00:46:45]

The citizens of Jefferson and Jackson County in this area are, of course, were horrified to learn of this terrible thing and we are disturbed that are saying this like this could happen here in our community. We're obviously looking for something and what we're looking for was would best be remain unknown at this time is not a body, though, is it? We're looking for something that would if we find if we find it, would be subject to crime laboratory examination.

[00:47:24]

And that's all I can tell you.

[00:47:26]

Billy, this is without a doubt, one of the most prolific killers and the history of our country and without a doubt about guilt.

[00:47:39]

A lot of people, people scared, scared to talk on time. You think now that people will start to come forward and talk Afghanistan, come forward and talk. Now, why are they so scared that I can say, all right, now? Are you scared? No, I'm sure. And if I had, I wouldn't be standing right here. Winder, Barrow County Hall County all over northeast Georgia. Well, I'm afraid to say right now, are you talking about moonshine, auto theft, everything I want to say right now.

[00:48:15]

Everybody in town knows what was happening. He was doing it, everybody in town know that he was. The epitome of a gangster, he was the leader of the Dixie Mafia, it was common knowledge unsaid, but nobody called him godfather. Nobody kissed his hand. They were friends. Ever want to talk to him on a weekly basis to get him to do jobs? And that's where the murders started popping up.

[00:48:48]

The press was five thousand dollars for anybody in the house. Now, if somebody in the house had a bullet out of the circle that wanted something done, it was ten thousand dollar. The people that were missing Bar none were stenches, they were people that had told I was going to testify or had testified run so up to a certain point. I think the mentality was, well, you know, when you play rough game, what happened the. I was conditioned it was OK in time, you know.

[00:49:22]

OK. He had his reasons. They must have deserved that because he'd done it. That's my was my mentality. It's hard to explain. I never had fear from my father. I never had fear for the consequences in my mind. In my simplistic childhood mine, at this new being a shadow of a doubt, he would always stay one step ahead of the law. In the red clay is a production of imperative entertainment. It was created, written and reported by me, Sean Kay and I wrote and created the original music score.

[00:50:04]

Executive producers or Jason Hoak and Jeno falsetto story editor is Jason Hoak, produced and engineered by Shane Freeman, Jason Hoak and myself, cover art and design by Gina Sullivan. Voice Sessions recorded at three Sound Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. Archival footage licensed courtesy of Brown Media Archives, University of Georgia and WSB TV in Atlanta, Georgia. In the Red Clay is a 12 episode series with new episodes available every Tuesday. Follow us on Instagram at in the Red Clay podcast.

[00:50:38]

Have questions. Email us at Podcast's and Imperative Entertainment Dotcom. If you like the show, tell your friends and leave us a review. Thanks for listening.