Tuesday, March 3, 2009
The Battle of the Bottle
August 6, 1966 was an infamous day in Greenville, Mississippi, as it was in the State of Mississippi. As the historic marker pictured above states, the "Jigger and Jug," owned by the Azar Brothers, became the first legal liquor store in the state. Still in business today, the store is advertised in McRae's Business Directory as a "specialty" retail store that sells liquor.
It is difficult for many people my age to remember that manufacturing and selling liquor was illegal in Mississippi for over half a century. But the fact that liquor was not legal in Mississippi did not prevent those who wanted to buy a "bottle" from making a trip across the Mississippi River Bridge to a liquor store in Louisiana or from buying from local sources known as "bootleggers."
Throughout the prohibition years, local law enforcement officers and political and religious leaders alike waged very public wars against the sale of alcohol while often looking the other way when dealing with those who were selling it. Non-drinking private citizens, some with both money and influence, often took up the controversial cause. One of those private citizens was Hazel Brannon Smith, a newspaper editor who owned the Lexington (MS) Advertiser. Mrs. Smith's frank and revealing editorials in the 1940's eventually led to the arrests of a number of Holmes County bootleggers.
The illegal sale of liquor, however, continued until the law was changed in the mid-sixties. When the new local option law became effective on July 1, 1966, Mississippi entered a new era: it became the last state to end prohibition.