Popcorn Sutton is a famous legend across Tennessee, especially near Cocke County. There are a lot of mixed opinions about his legacy because some people call him a folk hero while others only see him as a criminal. Either way, he’s an iconic historical figure that brought Real Mountain Moonshine to the area.
Keep reading to find out who Popcorn Sutton is and why he’s so well-known.
Who is Popcorn Sutton?
Marvin Sutton earned the nickname “Popcorn” because he once attacked a popcorn vending machine using a pool cue when he got frustrated at a bar. He was rarely called by his real name after that bizarre moment.
He is known for being Popcorn the Moonshiner because he made a career out of making moonshine. However, his methods weren’t legal. He did bootlegging, which is an illegal business of smuggling alcohol in areas where transporting alcohol isn’t allowed.
Popcorn Sutton became the most popular in his later years and after he passed away. Despite committing many crimes during his lifetime, he’s still thought highly of because of the moonshine he made.
Popcorn Sutton’s Life History
Popcorn Sutton was born in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, in 1946. His family were all bootleggers, so he followed in their footsteps as he grew up. He learned how to make moonshine when he was very young, and he aimed to master it like the generations before him had. He often produced it without the government’s authorization, which is illegal.
In his adult life, Popcorn got in trouble with the law several times, and most of the crimes were related to his work. Here are a few examples of his convictions:
- 1974 – Charged with multiple violations after being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
- 1981 – Convicted for felony possession of a controlled substance.
- 1985 – Convicted for a felony assault with a weapon with intent.
- 1998 – State agents searched his roadside store and found illegal moonshine.
- 2007 – Caught with over 650 gallons of moonshine.
- 2008 – Caught with over 500 gallons of moonshine, leading to several charges, such as tax evasion and transportation of an illegal substances.
Some of these incidents occurred in North Carolina while others were in Tennessee. Most of these incidents led to short sentences or probation time. All of Popcorn’s sentences were tame because of his age. His health was decreasing and he had cancer, which took an emotional toll on him. The judge seemed to be lenient on him because of his cancer.
Popcorn Sutton married his wife, Pam Sutton, only two years before he passed away. Reports say that they only dated for a month before getting married. Popcorn ended up dying in 2009 by suicide. He killed himself through carbon monoxide poisoning at age 62 because he told Pam he’d rather die than report to the federal prison.
Where was Popcorn Sutton Buried?
Popcorn Sutton was originally buried in an isolated spot in North Carolina, which was near where his parents were buried. However, his body was dug up and reburied in Parrotsville, Tennessee, near his home there. His wife held a public memorial service in that spot, which many people attended. American singer Hank Williams Jr. was one of the people at the service.
It’s unclear exactly why his body was moved from one burial spot to another. Some people believe vandalism at the original site caused the change while others believe that Pam disagreed with the first burial spot.
The Popcorn Sutton tombstone reads, “Popcorn said f*** you.” Unfortunately, the Popcorn Sutton grave is on private property, so it cannot be viewed by the public.
Is Popcorn Moonshine Still Around?
While Popcorn’s family no longer keeps the moonshine tradition alive, the community has honored Popcorn in other ways. Despite being a local criminal, his story is a classic tale in Tennessee.
Since Popcorn Sutton’s death, a company has named their whiskey brand after him. The Popcorn Sutton whiskey is made only a couple of miles from where Popcorn’s home was in Cocke County, Tennessee. Some local shops sell the whiskey, and it can also be ordered from some online stores.
Popcorn Sutton in the Media
In 1999, Popcorn wrote a self-published autobiography called Me and My Likker. He sold the book at his shops, and it’s difficult to obtain a copy of the book today. He also self-produced a video of himself discussing his experiences with making Popcorn Sutton moonshine.
Not only did Popcorn create media himself, but he also appeared as a subject in several documentaries. One of his most notable roles was in the Emmy-winning 2007 documentary, Hillbilly: The Real Story. He’s also the subject of the award-winning biography, The Moonshiner Popcorn Sutton.
Visiting Cocke County, Tennessee
Cocke County is best known for where Popcorn Sutton lived in his later years and where he created a lot of his moonshine. Unfortunately, there aren’t any tourist attractions there related to his story, but it’s still a beautiful town to visit.
Here are a few fun things you can do:
- Cherokee National Forest
- The Martha Sundquist State Forest
- The Appalachian Trail
- Houston Valley Recreation Area
- World Famous Ramp Festival
- Whitewater Rafting
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some questions people commonly ask about moonshiner Popcorn Sutton.
What Kind of Cancer Did Popcorn Sutton Have?
It’s unclear what kind of cancer Popcorn Sutton was diagnosed with. All reports of the cancer are vague, focusing on his reaction to the diagnosis rather than the details.
Did Popcorn Sutton Have a Daughter?
Yes, Popcorn Sutton had a daughter named Sky Sutton. She is a published author, historian, and genealogist. Reports state that she didn’t have a close relationship with her father. They seemed to speak on the phone occasionally, but she hadn’t seen him at all in the years leading up to his death.
Is Popcorn Sutton’s Wife Still Alive?
Yes, Pam Sutton is believed to still be alive and living in their home in Tennessee. However, there’s very little information about her in the media.
What was Popcorn Sutton Net Worth?
At the time of his death, Popcorn Sutton’s net worth was estimated to be anywhere from $1 million to $13 million.
Popcorn Sutton was a popular historical figure both in Tennessee and North Carolina. So, if you’re ever traveling to Cocke County, Tennessee, or Maggie Valley, North Carolina, you may be able to learn more information about him from the locals. If tasting new drinks is your thing, you may want to check out Cocke County’s local Popcorn Sutton whiskey.
Cocke County might not be a popular tourist destination, but there are lots of great places to visit in Tennessee. So, if you’re interested in going to “The Volunteer State,” consider checking out the most fun things to do in Tennessee.
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