Prohibition comes to Alabama. Again.

Posted by | June 30, 2015

On July 1, 1915, statewide prohibition went into effect in Alabama, for the second time, five years before the federal prohibition amendment was ratified under the Kilby administration. Between 1907 and 1915, all but two Southern states enacted prohibition laws.

AL Gov Charles Henderson, 1915Prohibition was a bitter issue in Alabama politics. “Prohibition in the South is a failure, not only because it does not prohibit, but because it is breeding a defiance of law and has set up in the place of licensed saloons illegal dispensers of liquor,” fumed the United States Brewers’ Association in their 1911 yearbook. “Not only has prohibition, as a general rule, failed to improve conditions that existed under the local-option system, but it has wiped out the reforms accomplished under the latter plan and has nullified the good effects of regulation wherever it existed.”

During the tenure of Governor Emmet O’Neal (1911-1915), prohibition forces controlled the legislature, which passed a bill to reinstate prohibition, submitting it to the governor on his last day in office. O’Neal ignored it, and after the inauguration, newly elected Gov. Charles Henderson promptly vetoed it.

“Both houses of the Legislature, within a few hours after Gov. Henderson had vetoed the bills and asked that the prohibition question be submitted to voters at a special election, voted on his proposal and repassed the bills by overwhelming majorities,” said the NY Times on Jan 22, 1915. “The prohibition measures re-enact the prohibition law repealed in 1911 after it had been in force two years. Under the 1911 local option law all but eight of the sixty-seven counties have voted dry.”

diagram of a whiskey stillHenderson was personally opposed to prohibition, and later vetoed a law against alcohol advertising. Despite his personal disagreement with them, Henderson upheld and enforced both of these laws.

Prohibition didn’t seem to slow whiskey production; 386 illegal stills were seized in Alabama in 1915. The “bone dry” law of 1915 stood till 1933, when the twenty-first amendment to the Constitution, repealing prohibition, was ratified.


The Year Book of the United States Brewers’ Association, by United States Brewers’ Assn., 1911


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