Josh Boatwright "¢ JBoatwright@CITIZEN-TIMES.com "¢ published March 17, 2009 12:15 am
A Maggie Valley Icon, Popcorn Sutton passed away at his home in TN yesterday. See the story below. He will be missed in these parts.
PARROTTSVILLE, Tenn. - Haywood County moonshine legend Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton was found dead Monday in his eastern Tennessee home, friends and family said.
Sutton, 62, spent much of his life making moonshine, a craft that brought him fame and a string of criminal convictions dating to the 1970s.
He was facing 18 months in federal prison on moonshining and weapons charges and had told a judge at his sentencing he was in poor health and would rather die at home than in jail.
Pam Sutton declined to discuss the circumstances of her husband's death, saying it was under investigation by the Cocke County. Tenn., Sheriff's Office.
The detective handling the case could not be reached Monday night.
"He was a good man, he really was," Pam Sutton said.
Federal authorities arrested Sutton a year ago on charges of running a moonshine operation that produced hundreds of gallons of liquor.
A judge in January sentenced him to 18 months in prison, rejecting arguments that Sutton had learned his lesson and was too ill to serve time.
"I'd like to die at home instead of in a penitentiary," Sutton said in court at the sentencing.
Nearly 1,500 people had signed petitions asking for leniency in his sentence.
Born near Maggie Valley, N.C., Sutton was revered by some for preserving a dying piece of mountain history.
His reputation grew beyond the mountains through a book and film he produced about his craft and Internet and cable TV documentaries in which he demonstrated how to make his famous liquor.
Sutton evoked curiosity from people around the world, drawing tourists to places like the Misty Mountain Ranch Bed and Breakfast in Maggie Valley, which has a suite dedicated to the moonshiner.
"He made a very big impact on the whole world because people have called me from all different countries, all over the U.S., asking for his books and tapes and anything you could tell him about Popcorn," said Misty Mountain co-owner Karen Hession.
Hession and her husband had been friends of Sutton for more than 10 years.
Hession said he captured the spirit of the mountains, but there was also a gentle side to the man that those close to him knew well.
"He was a very kind, thoughtful person," she said. "I wish everybody knew him like we did