Jim Tom Hedrick is an American moonshiner, singer and reality TV star, born on 25 December 1940, in Robbinsville, North Carolina USA. He’s known for appearing in the Discovery Channel’s show “Moonshiners”.
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Marvin ‘Jim Tom’ Hedrick grew up in Graham County. Although there’s no information about his childhood, family and education, it’s known that he left school at an early age, and so started working when he was 15 years old.
Marvin Hedrick had many different jobs during his youth. Although his principal job was as a plumber, he also worked as electrical technician, radio operator, and the job he hated the most to do: car maintenance.
There’s no information on who taught Hedrick the process of creating moonshine, though it’s assumed he learned it from a local distiller in the Appalachian Mountains in his early twenties.
Hedrick has worked as moonshiner for almost 60 years, and his specialty is Unaged Rye, winning several awards for it including a bronze medal from American Distilling Institute, silver medals from LA International Spirits Competition and Beverage Testing Institute, a gold medal in San Francisco World Spirits Competition and obtained double gold in Fifty Best.
When Marvin became known as “Jim Tom” is indefinite, though it’s speculated he adopted the nickname as his popularity as a Moonshiner increased in his native North Carolina.
Jim Tom’s first media appearance was in “Mountain Talk” in 2004, directed by Neal Hutcheson. In this documentary, the audience gets to know the culture and dialect of Southern Appalachia, along with their people’s good humor, music and distilled spirits traditions.
In 2009 Jim Tom appeared in “Shine”, the music video by Matt Stillwell filmed at Fontana Village in Graham, North Carolina; Hedrick participated in 2012’s short “Squzz Corn N’ Ole Scratch” as well.
Moonshiners – TV Show
Centered on illegal producers of Moonshine located in Appalachian Mountains, Discovery Channel premiered this documentary-drama series in 2011, though it was only during show’s second season in 2012 that Jim Tom Hedrick made his first appearance.
Although the show centers on distillers’ efforts to produce moonshine evading law, authorities have claimed there’s no actual production of liquor in the show: ‘If illegal activity was actually taking place, the Virginia ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement would have taken action’.
Authorities of Virginia also declared that “Moonshiners” is misleading its audience, falsely making them believe illicit activities pertaining to distilling are overlooked by police. Discovery Channel has refuted these allegations, assuring everything seen in the show is real, denying its dramatic nature.
In despite of this, “Moonshine” has been a popular show for years, and Jim Tom Hedrick was highly admired by fans for his unforgettable and charismatic personality.
This led him to become a local celebrity in his native South Carolina, where copper stills in miniature autographed by him are being sold.
In 2016, however, Jim Tom Hedrick stop appearing in the series for reasons unknown.
Jim Tom’s a country musician as well. His most famous work, part of “Moonshiners” soundtrack is “Golly that’s Good”, sung by him in collaboration with My Highway.
Why is Moonshine Illegal?
Despite its popularity, Moonshine – commonly known as white whisky, mash liquor or white lightning – it’s illegal to be produced. This liquor is traditionally created by illicit, homemade distilleries, and gets its name in reference to the conditions it was originally made in: underground or under the “moon light”.
Moonshine also plays an important role in Southern history, going back as far as 1791, when protests started as a response to George Washington’s Congress taxing alcohol. Farmers were deeply affected by this law, as many of them became distillers when unable to market and sell all of their grain, and chose instead to refine it to produce various alcoholic beverages, obtaining their principal income from it.
Widely distributed and with the highest consumption rates of the time, whisky’s market was the most affected, so the movement acquired the name “The Whisky Rebellion”, taking place in various states such as Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and of course South Carolina.
The uprising was suppressed by government forces after it became an armed rebellion in 1974, though the tax decree was annulled in 1801.
In 1861 however, another “whisky tax” was instituted during the Civil War causing distillers to hide their activities once again to evade taxes. Moonshiners came to exist as a result of this situation.
In the early 1900s, the consumption of Moonshine increased exponentially, as alcohol was made illegal in many places, particularly during the period of prohibition from 1920 to 1933. Having this immense growth on demand, distillers opted for distilling large amounts of moonshine without taking into consideration its quality.
For this reason, moonshine and other illicit liquors were contaminated by various factors related to its production process, resulting in serious health problems for consumers, including poisoning.
Nowadays homemade distilleries are strictly prohibited not only in US but also in many countries, as they have been deemed dangerous for evading sanitary regulations, causing prejudicial consequences in many cases.
Moonshine is only permitted to be made by registered distilleries, therefore Hedrick has partnered with Sugarlands Distilling Co., to commercialize his own brand of this alcoholic beverage.
There’s not much personal information about Jim Tom.
His relationships, possible children and other family are unknown, as he prefers to stay away from social media. However, it’s known that he was married at least two times in his youth.
Despite the lack of information, Hedrick has shared some aspects of his past adventures in various interviews during the show “Moonshiners”.
In 1962 Jim suffered an accident on Halloween night while riding a Starliner 390 bike. He was left with a broken leg and a serious head injury after hitting a Ford Station Wagon at 115mph, allegedly flying through the air for 300 feet. Fortunately he survived said accident, and feverously narrates the story now.
In his youth he was locked up several times, and in 2015 he held DUIs record in North Carolina.
Jim Tom Hedrick has an estimated net worth of $100,000 as of 2020, which is a result of his work as moonshiner and as reality TV star.
Jim Tom Hedrick is a man of white ethnicity, with blue eyes and white hair, which was speculated to be blond in his youth. Regardless of his old age, he’s a healthy man with a slender build who is approximately 5ft 9ins (1.75m) tall.
His bio on SugarLands.com describes him as ‘legendary moonshiner, master storyteller, and still maker’.
Discovery Channel’s official YouTube Channel shared a video of Jim Tom being asked the things he can’t live without, to which he answered: ‘The women. Now, you just can’t hardly make it without them. Now I get around. People don’t know that I get around. Yes sir. Women and booze. Ain’t never been nothing that matches like that together.’
I'm on Twitter now. 180 proof! pic.twitter.com/kT7Xnc1rWk
— Jimtom Hedrick (@JimtomHedrick) March 18, 2014
Jim Tom allegedly partied a lot during his youth, once waking up in a tent with two women he didn’t know.
Despite his age, Jim Tom drives a 50cc Cruiser Chopper bike.
Even before his appearances in “Moonshiners”, he was already popular in his hometown. However, it was the show that made him well known across the country, but regardless of his fame, he remains humble.
He has a deep, characteristically southern accent, hence he was subtitled during his appearances in “Moonshiners”, as it was hard to understand his words for non-native English speakers and people from other states.
Though his most famous song is “Golly that’s Good”, he released many other country songs during his time as a radio operator.