William D. Upshaw Biography (William David Upshaw)

Early Life

William D. Upshaw was born in Georgia in 1866. He became an ardent proponent of Prohibition. Some may have thought him a fanatic. He served in Congress from 1918 to 1924. There he called for the strictest of Prohibition enforcement. This led him be known as ‘the driest of the dry,’ ‘Ernest Willie,’ and the  the “Billy Sunday of Congress.’

His career in temperance began in 1906. He was vice-president of the Georgia Anti-Saloon League. There he played a major role in getting state-wide prohibition passed in 1907. That made it the first dry state in the South.

William D. Upshaw

William D. Upshaw

Prohibition in Georgia faced opposition. Law enforcement of it was often lax or non-existent. Years of frustration led to the formation of the second Ku Klux Klan in 1915 near Atlanta. It was called the “Klan of the 1920s.’  One of the major supporters of Prohibition was the Klan. ‘Prohibition became one of the Klan’s leading issues.’1  It strongly supported both Prohibition and its strict enforcement.2   The Klan’s ‘support for Prohibition represented the single most important bond between Klansmen throughout the nation….’3   (Emphasis in original.)

Both William Upshaw and the new KKK supported prohibition and its strict enforcement. But he was not sympathetic to the Klan. He once ran against a candidate supported by it.


Upshaw was the Prohibition Party candidate for president in 1932. He and running mate, Frank S. Regan, won far fewer votes than either the Socialist or the Communist Party. Their 53,633 votes were about half those for the Communist Party.

Publications & Later Life

William Upshaw’s publications include these.

Upshaw was an evangelist and became an ordained Baptist minister at age 72. He deeply believed in faith healing. In 1952, he died in California  .


1   Lantzer, J.S. Dark Beverages of Hell.
2   Lay, S. Hooded Knights on the Niagara. NY: NYU. Press, 1995.
3   Politics and World Affairs, August 30, 2004.


Kobler, J. Ardent Spirits. NY: Putnam’s, 1973.
Prohibition Party: William D. Upshaw
William David Upshaw.
In Cadle Tabernacle. Time, July 18, 1932