Anyone who’s followed moonshine history for a minute has most definitely heard of “Junior” Johnson, often called the Last American Hero and credited with helping spawn the NASCAR circuit. But there’s someone who often gets lost in the nostalgia that is a legend unto himself: Robert Glenn Johnson, Sr., the father of Junior.
Junior Johnson grew up poor in rural North Carolina during the Great Depression. But like so many other farm community families did when things were scarce, they used what they had to earn money to eat and survive — put another way, they made and sold moonshine from their excess crops which otherwise would have gone bad.
It was a well-known fact in the law enforcement community that Robert Glenn Johnson, Sr. was producing hooch on his farm. In fact, Junior recalls that his father was approached by the FBI so frequently over the years that his mother would whip up some coffee and pie when they arrived to try and lighten their mood.
Robert Glenn Johnson, Sr. lived to be 63. He spent a third of his life in jail. And although he served a lot of time behind bars, it didn’t keep him from teaching Junior to “help somebody if you can.” He also taught his son how to drive and run moonshine without getting caught in car chases with the feds. Years later, Johnson snatched his first NASCAR victory at Hickory, and went on to become one of the most famous racing drivers of all time.
Moonshine and NASCAR fans everywhere love Junior Johnson. But the man they really need to thank is “Senior” Johnson.