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Oral History Interview with Junior Johnson, June 4, 1988. Interview C-0053. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Born in Wilkes County, North Carolina, in the early 1930s, Junior Johnson describes what it was like to grow up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where moonshining was a commonplace local enterprise. It was because of moonshining, in fact, that Johnson first learned to drive cars, having watched his father and older fathers "haul whiskey." Drawn to cars and fast driving at an early age, Johnson soon became a well-known stock car driver in the region. Johnson speaks at length about what it was like to be one of the founding participants in the then-nascent industry. According to Johnson, stock car drivers were motivated by a competitive drive and a desire to race for the sake of racing. Moreover, Johnson discusses how stock car drivers in the 1950s were known for their propensity to party and shirk the law. He was able to avoid the former, but not the latter, and served eighteen months in prison for moonshining, which he describes as a positive, life-altering experience. He retired from driving at the age of thirty-one, having accomplished all of his racing goals. From then on, Johnson participated in the building of the NASCAR empire by running his own race team. From an insider's perspective, Johnson describes the technological innovations that shaped the evolution of the sport and the changing role of sponsors and audience. In addition to describing his role in the shaping of NASCAR, Johnson talks about his other business endeavor as a poultry farmer for Holly Farms in Wilkes County. Following his success with NASCAR, Johnson and his wife (a childhood sweetheart) returned to Wilkes County as their home base. He describes how that area changed over the course of his lifetime. Finally, Johnson briefly discusses Tom Wolfe's interview of him and his short prison sentence in the 1950s.
    Excerpts
  • Growing up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains
  • Stock car racing in the 1950s
  • Evolution of stock car racing with the rise of NASCAR
  • African American stock car driver
  • Technological innovations, building cars, and running a race team
  • Marriage, farming, and community development
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Automobile racing drivers--North Carolina
  • Motor sports--North Carolina
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.