Midnight Moon was officially born when Piedmont Distillers, North Carolina’s first legal distillery since Prohibition, called on Junior at the mechanics shop on his old farm to taste-test what would become Midnight Moon Original. Junior sipped, smiled, and gave two thumbs up to the best damn moonshine ever made. It’s deep in his roots and it flows in his blood. Hell, back during the Whiskey Rebellion in 1791, his ancestors were some of the first to make ‘shine in Appalachia. And, about 150 years later, Junior’s family kept the tradition going in order to survive. Running moonshine wasn’t always easy, or legal for that matter, but the Johnsons did what they had to do to keep food on the table.
Throughout the years, this rebellious approach to living sent Junior’s father and brothers in and out of prison. In fact, the only one in the family never to get busted was his dear mother. And when Junior got behind the wheel to run ‘shine at the tender age of 14, things finally started to turn around. He had the spirit of a racer, and his slick driving skills were good for the family business…and bad for the authorities in the rearview.
THE LAST AMERICAN HERO
As young Junior ran ‘shine for his family, driving like a bat out of hell evolved into more than just a necessity. In order to outrun the cops, he built the fastest cars and invented gutsy driving moves, like the famed bootlegger U-turn. His racing savvy soon turned into his passion and Junior crossed over to NASCAR, where he became an instant star.
But early in his racing career, Junior was finally caught by the revenuers. While they had no chance of chasing him down in a car, they staked him out at the family still and arrested him. He served 11 months of a two-year sentence and then returned back to racing where he ultimately won 50 races during his illustrious career. Many years later, President Ronald Reagan granted a pardon to Junior – restoring his civil rights and reinforcing his legacy as “The Last American Hero”(immortalized in the famous article by Tom Wolfe).
Johnson had reportedly been in declining health and had entered hospice care earlier this week, according to NASCAR.com.
Johnson is survived by his wife, Lisa, his daughter Meredith and son Robert Glenn Johnson III.