Prohibition in North Carolina: Prohibition Relics Continue

Prohibition in North Carolina has a long history. The state became the first in the south to have state-wide prohibition. It was also the first state in the union to enact state prohibition by a direct vote. It did so with a resounding vote of 62% in favor.

Thus, North Carolina established its own prohibition years before it became national in 1920. Clearly, the vast majority of North Carolinians wanted prohibition. And they wanted it to work.


But neither state-wide nor National Prohibition reduced the production of moonshine. After the former was established, speakeasies and blind pigs sprang up. They did so “like mushrooms after rain.” A reported $15,000,000 worth of alcohol came into the state from nearby Richmond, Virginia. That’s each year. That’s about $375,000,000 in today’s dollars

Prohibition in North Carolina
Relics remain from Prohibition in North Carolina.

The director of prohibition enforcement for the eastern part of the state expressed frustration. He reported that “we have more illicit distilleries than any other State in the Union. And the number is increasing.”

Prohibition not only failed to reduce crime. It created it. Not only failed to reduce moonshine. It increased it. Not only failed to increase public morality. It reduced it.

Newspaper columnist Franklin Adams expressed tar heel sentiments when he wrote this.

“Prohibition is an awful flop.
We like it.
It can’t stop what it’s meant to stop.
We like it.
It’s left a trail of graft and slime,
It don’t prohibit worth a dime,
It’s filled our land with vice and crime.
Nevertheless, we’re for it.”


States were able to create constitutional conventions. They were to consider ratifying Repeal. North Carolina voted against calling such a convention. It did so by a landslide vote. It was 293,484 to 120,190. Nationally, the popular vote on Repeal was in the opposite direction. Seventy-four percent favored Repeal. But North Carolina has never ratified Repeal.

Repeal was in 1933. Then a prohibitionist legislator made a proposal. It was for ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control Board) stores. It passed into law.

Distilled spirits are whiskey, rum, vodka, tequila, etc. They are only available in ABC government monopoly stores. Even now, some counties don’t have such a store. Prohibition for distilled spirits continues in them. Just as in Prohibition.

North Carolina still operates under the strong influence of prohibition-era attitudes. We see this in its dry counties. In its Blue laws restricting the Sunday sales of alcohol. In its artificially high alcohol prices. And in the poor selection and service in its government monopoly ABC stores.

Vestiges of Prohibition in North Carolina continue.

Resources: Prohibition in North Carolina


North Carolina Alcohol Laws. Think you really know them?

Repeal of Prohibition.


Doak, F. Why North Carolina Voted Dry. Chapel Hill: UNC Press.

Primm, G. The Story behind the Expose of the Legislative Liquor Scandal in North Carolina.  Shelby, NC: Allied Church League.

Whitener, D. Prohibition in North Carolina, 1715-1945, Chapel Hill: UNC Press.


At this point, you know much more about Prohibition in North Carolina than most people. So Kudos!