This podcast is intended for mature audiences, listener discretion is advised. By 1967, Billy Sunday, Burt had gone from a heavy equipment operator at the Gainesville Stone and Rock Quarry and making whiskey on the side for extra money to full blown criminal. He was quickly building an empire and diving deeper and deeper into the underworld of robbery, illegal gambling and hauling and selling hundreds of thousands of gallons of bootleg whiskey all over the south. The man who was once so poor he had to steal food to survive had now entered a whole new world, one of wealth and power.
He was now mixed in with a crowd of high profile kingpins like Eddie Allen, who specialized in bootlegging, stolen cars and chop shops. He was also known for dealing in stolen high end clothing. Eddie Allen was reportedly head of a one million dollar operation based out of Commerce, Georgia, about 20 miles northeast of Wyner in today's money. That's over seven and a half million dollars. Not bad for a country boy, right?
Eddie got away with all kind of stuff, and I would imagine he would be one that would have gone to Billy Port Said, I've got to get rid of this. This guy is going to testify against Blake and trial. You know, I don't know. I don't have any evidence that ever happened. But I do know there were people who disappeared before they could be called on to testify.
Another whiskey kingpin named Cliff Park had made a name for himself in the tri county area of Barrow Banks and Jackson ClipArt.
His kingpin operation consisted of two things loansharking. He would loan money for 20 percent that 200 percent and then go for a year to that 20 percent. If you told the man you're going to pay him back two weeks or a month, 20 percent. Compound interest on a credit card is a joke compared to the big own interest from a loan shark. Well, he was that his other claim to fame as a kingpin, he would buy whiskey and beer from other states like Carolina, who was a lot cheaper.
So cigarettes, he would bring them here and he would sell them without paying Georgia taxes.
He sold to teenagers. He sold anybody. I mean, he wasn't. I mean, he didn't care. I mean, he just sold anybody who wanted to come by. And that's according to friends in high school who said they they could get it.
In 1967, Cliff Park was 76 years old. He was thin and frail, looking with grayish white hair and wore thick horn rimmed glasses and was well dressed honestly. He looked like a typical grandfather. But underneath that unassuming exterior was something much more sinister.
A kingpin has his own world for clear parks. It was Jackson Canyon and that county. He was all powerful. He owned the sheriff. He owned the he owned everybody. When I say old, they were on his payroll in one form or another. And if they won't take him down, they'll have to go down with him. That is what a kingpin does. He gets everybody into the tangle of his will. From Imperative Entertainment, this is in the red clay.
Cliff parks, racketeering, loan sharking and bootlegging business had made him rich and has always, along with money, comes power. He bribed sheriffs and visas for information about when raids were going to take place at one of his many operations so that he had time to clear out the area of anything illegal. When police arrived, they would find nothing but a seemingly legitimate business or an empty warehouse, but he was on the radar of Floyd Whored, a newly elected solicitor general or district attorney, as it would later become known of the Piedmont judicial circuit serving banks.
Barrow and Jackson counties poured. Son author Richard Whored remembers how bad things had now become in their once Mayberry esque little town.
Just just the underworld element there and how powerful they were or how powerful they felt they were, what they thought they were able to get away with. Back then, they seemed to think they were beyond the law. And a lot of ways it was a big business. It wasn't just like moonshine on, you know, getting a little nip out on the weekends. This was a big business, tens of thousands of dollars that come across into some hands in a night.
In 1965, Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter had implemented Operation Dry Up, a campaign alerting the public to the dangers of moonshine and how it negatively affected the economy. It was a big thing, it was in the papers and it was of operation and yeah, it had all the people up here to work.
He also sent one hundred and sixty five federal agents into the South to combat the bootlegging and subsequent crime wave.
The agents, called Revenuers, made public displays of their efforts by smashing stills and pouring moonshine into sewer drains for all to see.
They wanted bootleggers to know that they were after them and that they were succeeding. 83 year old Gordon Perkel is a moonshine historian from Dawsonville, Georgia, which is known as the moonshine capital of the world. And being a former bootlegger himself arrested 34 times for making and running whiskey, he knows what he's talking about.
The feds really got cracking down on all the towns below here. We're stopping any car. It might be having to make it slow down some time, you know, but after nearly two years, Operation Dry Up still hadn't made as much progress as they had hoped.
In fact, it seemed they had made a dent in the booming business because as soon as they busted up one liquor, still two more popped up. In part because much of the police force at the time were being either paid off or were customers themselves.
The police witness, no for whatever they knew. If you sort of get a look at people using their gang in this county so they can protect them and most of them had part of the family reason to or they simply did not have enough of a police force to actually pursue all the people making liquor way out in the mountains.
In fact, the police force in Barrow County where Winder is located was so small they had less than 10 employees at the time. And this included the radio operator who was out in the field. When you take into account different work shifts and days off, this means you might have only one officer working the night shift when most of this activity was likely to take place. It wasn't altogether organized, as made clear, by the way, former Barrow County Sheriff Joe Robinson became a deputy and although this particular instance took place in 1974, it gives you a good idea of how things worked back then.
I come in to work one day and I was a radio operator for the sheriff and. I started up the steps and he won't know who are going, and I said, I'm going to work, and he said, you're not working and earning more your dead. And I don't know anything about a damn thing. I know rest nobody. And he said, well, you're a deputy right now. I said, get in that car and go patrol.
And I said, I don't want to do nothing. I don't know how. And he said, well, you get out and you see somebody doing something wrong, you call me and I'll tell you what to do. The bootlegging and crime wave had become a cancer on the small towns, but Floyd Hoard was going to change all of that one way or another. I guess to me, the thing that I was proudest of it, what was his ability to hit a softball?
And, you know, he was such an athlete.
Floyd Horded son Richard is a retired pastor and teacher living in Athens, Georgia. He's written several books, including one about his father's life and legacy called Alone among the Living.
He'd been in the Philadelphia Philly organization up until the time when I was born, and he came to Jackson County in 1952, right about the time of my birth and about the time that my grandfather had his first stroke and was unable to continue really handling the day to day business of his law firm.
The World War Two veteran quit his job as a school teacher and baseball coach and moved the family to Jefferson, Georgia, to live with his wife's parents to help on the farm. His father in law, a lawyer, and the mayor of the town of Jefferson. Urged her to start studying law as well. My father takes from the sale extensive course of the law. He was the last person who took that particular course and then passed the bar. After that, he had to go to law school.
He did not go to law school. He ended up taking this extension course. But he but the big thing, you know, he was allowed to take the bar exam, passed it, and that's when he began his law career. Jefferson. 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.
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.
It is the money, obviously, that attracts organized crime.
I don't have any knowledge as to what happened to Mr. Hammer. He was a personal friend of mine, and I just think it's a terrible tragedy.
There's no doubt in my mind that they are nervous at first about having to do business with Mike Leavis society.
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.
This is Gangster House, the unbelievable story of Mike Thebus family man and the so-called sultan of smut.
Listen and subscribe to Gangster House right now on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
In 1964, 37 year old Floyd Whored was elected to the position of solicitor general and was responsible for arguing cases before the Supreme Court, providing legal advice to the county, as well as bringing indictments to the judge against criminals.
He was tall, with narrow eyes and dark hair that was combed straight back from his high hairline. He ran under the ticket. We're going to clean up what is going on in the county here. When he when he stepped into it, I think the first week he made an arrest, they started into it immediately, trying to put a stop to some of the stuff that was going on.
And the district board immediately started going to work and targeting the big players in the game. He filed 79 indictments in just a short time in office. So many at a second judge was hired to handle the caseload.
I mean, I don't know that he had any idea how bad it was just when he jumped in. There were you'd had a sheriff who'd been convicted on car theft charges. But the year before he was elected, you had you know, Mr. Park, for example, had been in federal prison for selling moonshine. That's the one that ends up being the kingpin. And so all of this had been going on for a while. I don't know just how, I guess how much of a network that he knew was going on.
I mean, you know, that this is happening, but maybe you think it's just individuals that are doing something, not a not a network. You know, I think a big thing in a way is when you're sheriff is accused of car theft and actually served time for it, suggest that there were payoffs that were going on.
The sheriff, Richard, is referring to is John B. Brooks, who served as Jackson County sheriff for 21 years after being arrested for car theft. He also dabbled in bootlegging and was tied to Cliff Park. You now have an inexperienced, understaffed police force, some of which are customers of the very people they're supposed to be putting in jail, and some are on the payroll of those same people. You have a sheriff who is a convicted car thief. You have a criminal network that is expanding and becoming more powerful with each passing day.
And then you have Floyd Hoard, the baseball playing schoolteacher turned law man who's now smack in the middle of it all. He had become the face of opposition to these kingpins. He was on their radar as much as they were on his. Whored needed help. You know, you have to have a world like that, you would like to trust some of your officials, but who can you trust really?
Who can you trust and who could trust? Certainly not the local police force. And he was now a target of the organized crime ring in the area. He had even been warned to put a piece of clear Scotch tape on the hood of his car, that way he could tell if someone had tampered under the hood and he started carrying a gun with him everywhere he went, something that was out of character for Whored.
You're not allowed, man. Why? You know why you're carrying a gun. You know, you don't think you don't think much about it. Like he could end up. He's going to have to use it.
Governor Carl Sanders had recently signed an executive order giving the GBI original jurisdiction in Jackson County due to the amount of local police corruption. This meant that the GBI had unrestricted access to the county and could bypass the local law enforcement if they deemed necessary or soon turned to run.
Angel, a friend who had recently become an agent with the GBI. The two devised a plan to take down Cliffe Park, who had by this time become the top dog.
I don't know if he felt like he would have the kind of support or the help. I mean, he obviously did from the local people. And that's why I went to the GBI and, you know, but, you know, maybe he's thinking they would have enough ability to to help and protect the men decided to hit Park where it hurt the most.
His bootlegging operation, Ron Angel, would go undercover and purchase enough alcohol from Cliff Park to have evidence for a raid. Richard remembers when Angel came to his house one day to borrow some of his clothes so that he would look inconspicuous and blend in with the non-professional crowd. Angel went on to make 14 undercover purchases in a one week span, collecting evidence. They now had what they needed to get a search and seizure warrant for Park's operation and with the help of the GBI, they planned the raid.
This time, they decided to leave the local law enforcement out of the loop because they knew they couldn't be trusted. They even went to a different judge to get a warrant because they had no way of knowing how far up the chain Cliff Park could reach.
When my father and some of the GBI folks raided Mr Parks place, we've kind of figured out that what was more than 20000 dollars of inventory back then, needless to say, this enraged Cliff Park, he would not let this act go unpunished.
Floyd Whored would pay Park, paid a 4500 dollar bond and set out to have her killed almost immediately. He sent Junebug Stinchcomb to find someone to carry out the hit, and Junebug knew exactly who to call.
He called my father. Billy ClipArt is offering twenty thousand dollars for someone to take out for Whored. He won't know if you'll do it.
Park wanted to use dynamite, I assume, to send a message that is Don't fuck with me again.
My father told him hell no to him be the dumbest damn thing he ever done to him. And think about this. While thousands of men get and when something happened to him, like the who in the the gun come out, you tell him best thing he can do is back off or go to another county.
But do not forget that day when Bert refused, Junebug asked him if he would at least sell him the dynamite. He could easily get it by robbing stone quarries like the one he used to work at. He says he'll know a or so I know all about it. It's a fool's game and you left.
But Park wouldn't back down that easily within a few weeks to young thugs had agreed to do the job and purchase dynamite through an unknown source telling them that it was for a welding job on August 7th or it was due to attend a grand jury meeting to discuss the indictment of Cliff Park and several other kingpins with evidence of numerous bootlegging, theft and racketeering charges. The following Monday morning, it would have been enough to put a lot of people behind bars.
But on that Friday morning, Floyd Hall would kiss his wife goodbye. He spoke his final words to her. Don't ever forget how much I love you. And walked out the front door. What you're about to hear is graphic and disturbing. Well, I was in the back of the house, I was. I'd had the light on then during the night I'd been reading and I was kind of spooky kid. Anyway, I read too much, too much horror stuff and so it kind of reared back in the back, gone to sleep.
You know, if you go to sleep holding a book, they don't think about you. You're scared to turn a light out. But I felt somebody came in, turn out the light that was right in my bed.
It wasn't very long after that, you know, maybe five, 10 minutes that I was awakened by the explosion and the front of the house.
And, you know, it was confusing. I didn't know what it was. You hear this?
I actually, you know, looking back, I believe I heard first click of the dynamite cap, you know, the blasting cap. I heard this click and then suddenly this, you know, loud explosion is like an artillery round. It shook the house and I was confused and I walked out. I was in the very back of the house as a whole country house. So I had a door that I walked outside, walked around the house. And as I got to the front, the first thing my mother is coming with a bucket trying to tap right at the corner of the front yard.
She's, you know, trying to put water in there. I think she just kind of running in circles and saying, you know, we got to get the fire out. I think your daddy's has been killed. You know, I mean, I just I just think that don't why would you jump to things like that? Dad is probably in town. And then I turned the corner and there's the car.
You see, this is oh, this is just really hard as anybody going to leave out of that, you know.
He was just really torn up in there. You could see his intestines, he'd been impaled, thrown him in the back seat. Steering wheel was the sort of impaling him. It would like to see his face was lacerated, his jaw was broken. It shredded his pants, you know, and you could see the bones of his leg, you know, you and your 14 years old. And you go get you go get that water bucket. You try to fill it up and you douse the flames.
You try to put put the fire in the engine out. And my sister comes out. She's trying to give mouth to mouth resuscitation, you know, and she said it's not doing any good. All his teeth are gone. So she tells me to do mouth and nose. Hordes, teeth had been blown out and were lodged in his throat, preventing mouth to mouth resuscitation, 14 year old Richard and his sister, Peggy Jean, desperately tried to save their father's life as their mother ran into the house to call for help.
And, you know, while while we're sitting there, I mean, thank you. Breathed his last.
He had this long, guttural groan and then he that was it, you know, she said, breathe in there. So I did I did what I had to do seemed like forever.
I was sitting there breathing and I knew how to do it, you know, from P.E. class cover, you know, can't get air and the mouth, you you put your hand over the mouth and breathe under the nose and, you know, you're trying to remember his chest going up, you know, breathe that much and then go back down and nothing. Wasn't doing anything. Alcohol is cheap, please pulled up. I remember Horace Jackson and his ambulance, which doubled his hearse back then.
Funeral homes ran the ambulance service. Irony of ironies, you know, they they pulled up and the others would get just immediately after people started coming in and before long, they cordoned off the yard. One person said, get him out of here. You know, talking about me, he has no business. This this I've seen too much already, you know? Honey, what are you protecting me from? They came and I remember some of them.
I thought, what in the world they're going to find in all this? It just looks like a tremendous mess.
The men had placed dynamite on the front left struts, support of cords, green for galaxy and wired the blasting cap to an ignition coil. Ten to 12 sticks of dynamite, not one stick, 10 to 12 sticks. When he started the engine, the dynamite detonated. Now, the twisted wreckage of the car is smoldering and smoking in the front yard with a crowd of dazed onlookers trying to make sense of what had happened.
People coming out and it looked like they were holding tweezers and picking up things. And that was all probably within an hour or so that folks were getting there and cordoning it off. And we were doing that kind of work. My father was still and still in the car, smelled Harrisburg, Pa.. Gasoline burn.
You just you just sort of sucker punched. So I don't know how you can describe it as being so knobbed, so shocked.
You know, if this happened, did I really see what I saw? Did this really happen? We never spend another night in that house.
The murder of Floyd Whored sent shockwaves through the community, is there any fear in this town as a result of what happened to Mr. Hardin? Well, let me say this.
Certainly the citizens of Jefferson and Jackson County in this area are, of course, horrified to learn of this terrible thing, the murder of Mr. Horn. And that shockwave rattled the underworld to. Every kingpin involved in organized crime in the area was angry that Cliff Park had made such a brazen move, not because they cared about Floyd Ward or any other lawman, for that matter, but because they knew that this act would not come without consequences. This would without doubt bring heat on them like they'd never seen of that much.
They were sure. This is a dastardly gang dyke killing Mr. Regretable, and this represents what could happen in a lot of areas unless law enforcement agencies in this state and local government are given the opportunity to call a halt to some of the illegal operations taking place in that state. The hell that come to Georgia when Cleopatra's killed that Cloward hold the idea. It really some people call it stop them, then attract that to make no money because they always come to losing, don't you?
Because you do not kill. A public official at the federal and state agents and officials were brought in from all over the murder, made national news and would not be ignored. Ford's death was even reported in Time and Newsweek magazines. Now, for the first time, the powers that be the kingpins had reason to work together. The big players in the game, aside from Cliff Park, were Ruth Chancey, her brother in law, Bush Chancy, and her son Harold, who had their bootlegging empire, Lee Gilstrap, with his prescription drug and gun sales.
Reese Spencer, who ran an illegal gambling joint out of his nightclub and dealt in the purchase and sale of stolen goods, and C.W. Royster and Junebug Stinchcomb, who were liaisons between these groups. Ruth, S.W. and Harrill, kind of my father, because at that time, for the first time ever, they had a reason to think about it. They realized that my father was the only man that walked in all these circles welcoming all these circles without fear because there was nothing to be feared of.
He was each one of these people go to man.
And these people did not interrelate. By this time, Billy Burt was doing contract jobs of all types for every major player in the game, it might be hauling a load of whiskey, it might be robbing high end clothing from a textile warehouse or burning down a building so someone could collect the insurance money. For the past two years, Billy Byrd had added contract killing to his resume, which is why Cliff Park approached him to murder Floyd Whored in the first place.
When you are making a whiskey and there comes a time when somebody gets busted hauling load, somebody gets bus and they make a deal with the authorities to turn state's evidence. And I say it on my father. Let's just say it's not on my father's own. Two of his associates, you, my father are those associates had two choices. They can follow the law, get a good lawyer and try to beat it. And the chips fall where they may, in which case they're probably going to prison for five years, leave the family.
The only other choice was to take him out.
The first time he had to do that was in 1965, Harold Chancey had one of his people busted on the run and this guy was going to turn state's evidence.
They come to data about it and we're talking about it. He said. I don't know what I'm going to have to hire somebody to take care of him.
And my father said, well, it because if it get your ass, they're going to get me, too, because the structure and the way it was, if heroin, then my father worked them.
He was he was connected anyway, way that first one of five thousand dollars higher paid him 5000 dollars to see this guy. Never caught this guy to this day has never been found. Self-preservation would become Billy's number one priority. Ruth and Harold Chancey asked Billy if he would round up this group and set a meeting to discuss what was to be done.
The meeting would be held on a Saturday morning at Spencer's nightclub, the Night Owl Lounge. As was the norm at this point, young Stoney would tag along with his dad that morning.
I sit in the car the last 30 minutes, the five that showed up. Not cannery's, he made six, they went in there and this is. Directly to me, word for word from Rhys. He said that Monday that led the meeting, he said it was kind of funny that he couldn't outplaying he could understand some what he said, but you can damn sure understand his body language. Maybe he called everybody baby.
Remember, Billy Byrd had a severe speech impediment, he said, but they said, look, what we're here for is it can't be no more public officials taking out a list ever who go and do it. Give the rest of us time to pull our horns in and get ready for it. And anybody who don't want to agree to that, he's on his own. It was only then that everybody knew that no one, he was the common denominator and no to anybody didn't agree to it.
And we're going to call in and say, OK, I'll fix it, do something stupid. We'll let you know. That will give Ruth hairless a baby time to hire my day to take them out. That was unsaid.
And they're after that 30 minute meeting. The Dixie Mafia was formed. It was decided that Billy Burr was the go to man for anything they might need taking care of. He just was the effective leader of it and he was humble, but he didn't realize he was everybody else, even at even at age 10, knew he was just, by the way people treat. But he never, never seemed to get it. He was just doing business as usual minister.
Oh, you look now. Ever want to talk him on a weekly basis to get him to do the job? And that's where the murders started popping up. In the red clay is a production of imperative entertainment. It was created, written and reported by me, Sean Qype and I wrote and created the original music score, 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 in the Red Clay podcast. Have questions. Email us at Podcast's at Imperative Entertainment Dotcom. If you like the show, tell your friends and leave us a review. Thanks for listening.