TTU historian shares secrets of infamous Tennessee export

Just call him Tennessee Tech’s resident scholar of moonshine.

Assistant history professor Michael Birdwell will be featured on Country Music Television’s Most Shocking series, in an episode entitled “Moonshine Madness,” on Saturday, Oct. 16. The episode will air at 8 p.m. CST.

“I was the token academic. My job was to explain the history of moonshining and why it was so prevalent in the mountain South,” Birdwell said.

Even before his television debut as a moonshine expert, he’d studied the subject fairly extensively. It was after reading a number of articles in which Birdwell was quoted that a representative from the show’s production company approached him to participate.
“It’s just so much a part of Tennessee history, it’s hard to avoid learning about it,” he said.

Nearby Jackson County, for instance, was once nationally known for the quality of its “white lightning,” he said. And Fentress County moonshiners had a code of ethics to take care of each other’s families whenever the head of the household’s profession forced him into federal prison.

In addition to Birdwell, others featured in the show include retired moonshiners, an ATF agent and former moonshine runner and NASCAR star Junior Johnson.

For more program information, visit www.cmt.com.
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