'Queen of the Mountain Bootleggers' Maggie Bailey

Maggie Bailey, a bootlegger who became a community legend in Harlan County, Ky., died Saturday at age 101. Otis Doan, Bailey's friend and lawyer, discusses the woman who put several local kids through college and was so popular that juries wouldn't convict her.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

A woman known as the queen of the mountain bootleggers died this past weekend at the age of 101. Maggie Bailey of Clovertown in Harlan County, Kentucky, started selling moonshine when she was 17 and she kept on selling alcohol from her home into her 90s. Otis Doan was a longtime friend of Maggie Bailey, and her lawyer. He joins us from his office in Harlan, Kentucky.

Thanks for being with us.

Mr. OTIS DOAN (Lawyer for Maggie Bailey): Thank you.

BLOCK: I understand Maggie Bailey was prosecuted many, many times. I assume you were representing her in these bootlegging cases?

Mr. DOAN: I've represented her in several cases. She was prosecuted once. Maggie was convicted--which I didn't represent her--was in the '40s and she served about 18 months in federal prison for moonshine. And then after that, she was never convicted again.

BLOCK: Well, how did she manage to beat the rap all these times?

Mr. DOAN: Well, people in the community just loved Maggie. Maggie was the type of person that bought food for families if they were having hard times. She helped send people to school, to college in her community. She never had any children of her own. She, along with her sister Lobella(ph), raised her two nephews. And Maggie was just a--to me Maggie was an asset to the community.

BLOCK: So it sounds like when a jury would be considering these cases, they just knew they couldn't convict.

Mr. DOAN: Well, they loved Maggie. You gotta remember, when Maggie walked into the courtroom, you'd see someone who reminded you of your grandmother. She had grayish hair. She wore a print dress with an apron, and that's how she came to court and that's how she dressed every day.

BLOCK: How would she defend what she did? What was her explanation for that?

Mr. DOAN: She started when she was 17 to support her family, and she continued throughout and she used to say when bad things would happen and people would do bad things, she would say, `I'm glad I'm just an old bootlegger.'

BLOCK: What was illegal about what Maggie Bailey was doing?

Mr. DOAN: Well, in the '30s and '40s and '50s, she was selling moonshine, which was untaxed. In the '60s and '70s and '80s and '90s and up until--she was in business till she was 95--Harlan County, Clovertown is a dry county--means it's illegal to sell any type of alcoholic beverage, and she continued to sell it and was never convicted.

BLOCK: What kind of operation was it at her house?

Mr. DOAN: Well, she just had a--she lived in a plain house. You would pull to the back of the house, and most likely she'd have a conversation with you, ask you who your mom and dad was if she couldn't remember your face, so she knew everybody. And you would tell her--you know, if you want a six-pack of Blue Ribbon and somebody would go in and bring you out a cold six-pack of Blue Ribbon and you would pay for it, and then you would leave.

BLOCK: Would there be anybody that she wouldn't sell to?

Mr. DOAN: She didn't sell to children and she didn't sell to drunkards, what we call alcoholics. She called 'em drunkards.

BLOCK: (Laughs) Did Maggie Bailey drink herself?

Mr. DOAN: No, she did not. She never drank.

BLOCK: You know, I've read that one of her attorneys said that she was very well-versed in the law. She knew everything there was to know about the Fourth Amendment, about search and seizure.

Mr. DOAN: Oh, yeah, she knew the Fourth Amendment backwards and forwards. She could cite cases to me and the case numbers and so forth.

BLOCK: What did see tell you about why she kept doing what she was doing?

Mr. DOAN: She said it kept her alive. She said it kept her young.

BLOCK: What part of it do you think kept her young?

Mr. DOAN: Well, the excitement of it, trying to hide from the police authorities. This lady wasn't some moonshiner that carried a big pistol and threatened people. She was just a pleasure.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Doan, thanks very much for talking with us.

Mr. DOAN: OK.

BLOCK: That's attorney Otis Doan of Harlan, Kentucky, remembering his friend and client Maggie Bailey, known as the queen of the mountain bootleggers. She died this past Saturday at the age of 101.

MICHELE NORRIS (Host): You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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