Prohibition in Alabama was was widely supported at first. Alabamans generally believed that the Noble Experiment would be beneficial. That it would improve health, increase safety and reduce violence. That it would raise public morality and create a better environment for young people.
Richard Pearson Hobson (Alabama native).
But it quickly became apparent that Prohibition was not having the desired outcomes. In the first year of the new law, Alabama became the leading state in the country in the number of illegal moonshine stills found.
Moonshine was typically made carelessly. It often contained creosote, lead toxins and even embalming fluid. Consumers sometimes suffered paralysis, blindness and painful death.
Moonshiners and bootleggers found it necessary to payoff police, sheriffs and Prohibition Bureau agents. This a cost of doing business.
If bribes didn’t work or became too expensive, violence was sometimes used. A plot to “exterminate” all prohibition enforcement officers in the northern part of the state was discovered. Unfortunately, it was after the death of one officer and the wounding of two others.
Prohibition also promoted the pattern of infrequent but heavy or abusive drinking. People didn’t go to a speakeasy to savor a drink with dinner. It was to guzzle alcohol while they could.
Prohibition also deprived the state of needed revenue at the same time it was causing increased expenses. So the higher costs for law enforcement, courts, jails and other burdens that had to be met by taxpayers.
Most Alabamans had supported Prohibition. Then they saw that the presumed cure was much worse that the disease. They called for an end to the failed experiment. And they did so by a vote of nearly 60% in favor of Repeal.
Yet much temperance sentiment remains. For example, many counties still prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages. Anti-alcohol attitudes are also seen in high taxes on alcohol. And on Sunday prohibitions of alcohol sales.
Perhaps in the 21st century all vestiges of Prohibition will disappear. But don’t count on it. Neo-prohibitionism is strong in the state. And, even today, almost one in five US adults favors prohibition. Surprisingly, they support making it illegal for anyone to drink any alcohol. That’s stricter than National Prohibition. Contrary to popular belief, Prohibition did not prohibit drinking. Discover more at What Did Prohibition Prohibit? It Wasn’t Drinking.
Additional reading about Prohibition in Alabama.
Crumpton, W. How Alabama became Dry. Montgomery, AL: Paragon, 1925.
Friedman, E. The Prohibition Movement in Alabama. Tuscaloosa: U Alabama, 1927.
Sellers, J. The Prohibition Movement in Alabama, 1702 to 1943. Chapel Hill: U North Carolina Press, 1943.