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September 26, 2016
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Restored car recalls legendary stories of local moonshiner
Restored car recalls legendary stories of local moonshiner

The star attraction at last Saturday's car show in Lanett was the above 1939 Ford coupe that was once driven by John Will Phillips to haul moonshine. The car has been restored by Keith Klosterman of Keith's Restorations, Opelika, and is making rounds on the car show circuit. It was very much on home turf Saturday. Mr. Phillips died in 1990. His son, John Will Phillips Jr., was there on Saturday to talk about the car and his dad's experiences in running from the law. He liked showing the dents in the car that were made by a shotgun blast fired by Lanett Police Chief Fatty McGee in the 1940s. Built like a tank, the car had the driver well protected from such pot shots. The super-charged engine ran on white lightning and once hit 120 miles an hour going up Kellum Hill back this side of LaFayette. (Photo by Wayne Clark)

By WAYNE CLARK

LANETT — A car show sponsored by Lanett Masonic Lodge No. 656 and Order of the Eastern Star Chapter No. 431 was a big success this past Saturday in one of the parking lots across from the Lanett Mill site. A total of 58 vehicles that were on display filled the parking lot, and lots of local people came out to see them.

One of the vehicles on display was worthy of a showing all by itself. It's a 1939 Ford coupe that once drove local law enforcement officers crazy trying to run it down. John Will Phillips used it as his moonshine car. It had a souped-up engine that ran off of the white lightning he made, and once he got going in it he was a hard man to track much less catch.

According to son John Will Phillips Jr. that car once hit 120 miles an hour while going up Kellum Hill between the Valley and LaFayette. Any vehicle that can do that is no ordinary car; it's a rocket ship.

The elder Phillips might have been an outlaw, but he was very good at what he did. He was not only an expert at making moonshine, he and all the men in his family were excellent mechanics. They could super charge an engine in a way no ordinary vehicle could compete with.

John Will Phillips outran the law a lot in his day. That 1939 Ford rocket ship of his was not only hard to follow, Phillips mastered all sorts of tricks to lose them while making a get away. If he was eluding an officer down a dusty, country road at night, he had a switch on the dashboard where he could turn off his tail lights.

Many a time a local officer wondered where in the world he went when they worked their way through that thick cloud of dust he left only to find there was nothing ahead of them. John Will knew those country roads like the back of his hand. When he cut off the tail lights, he'd turn off onto another road and leave the police zooming blindly through the dust.

In an era when outlaws such as Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd were making names for themselves nationally, John Will Phillips was already known for his clashes with the law and his amazing escapes.

In 1932 when he was 23 years of age, John Will narrowly escaped death when he was shot in the back by three officers in Auburn. According to a news account that appeared in the September 21, 1932, edition of The Chattahoochee Valley Times, Phillips had gone there in the early morning hours on a Sunday to deliver a 10-gallon jug of brandy.

He'd gone there with a friend of his from Lanett who was named Sam Hill. No one could have blamed him if he'd said, "What in the Sam Hill are we going to do?" when cornered by the officers.

"After a spirited chase," reads the Times article, "Phillips left his car and ran through the yard of a negro home. As he rounded the corner of the house he was shot. As all three officers fired, it was not known which one shot him."

Phillips was taken to the East Alabama Hospital in nearby Opelika in extremely critical condition. When he was operated on the next day, surgeons doubted that he'd live once they discovered that the bullet had pierced his liver and grazed his kidney.

Somehow he pulled through only to face a felony charge of transporting more than five gallons of liquor. The experience taught him that if he was going to keep hauling liquor he needed to have a faster car.

The young man could have gone straight at that time but running moonshine in bone-dry Alabama and Georgia was just too lucrative to resist. With his skill at making moonshine and fast cars, Phillips did quite well in the trade. He was also pretty good at exploiting the public appetite for gambling. At one time he had over 1,200 slot machines in Alabama and Georgia.

His success hit its peak with that 1939 Ford, and it was a wonder for its day. Not long after he took delivery of it, he began to modify it to make it both fast and durable. He built it to haul moonshine and anything that came with the car that was not well suited for that purpose was removed.

Phillips approached building that car the same way today's professional race teams approach their task. His car was fast, reliable and could carry heavy loads.

He took out the front seat that came with the car and replaced it with the seat from a B-17 bomber he got from a Bell aircraft war production plant in Atlanta. It offered more stable seating for the driver, more room for the cargo and saved weight. A thick wrap of friction tape made gripping the steering wheel easy. The fender braces, bumpers, inner quarter panels and even the floorboards were reinforced with steel and the front fenders were welded to the body. The big rear deck lid was altered where it would not open from the outside. Four turnbuckles held it firmly closed.

The trunk was opened from inside the car for delivery purposes only.

The car was equipped with heavy duty shocks so that it could carry heavy loads, upward to 100 gallons of moonshine whiskey at a time. Such a load would add close to 1,000 pounds to the car.

In addition to heavy-duty shocks and suspension the car was equipped with, it also had wheels that were bigger than what was on the original car. In true hot-rod fashion, it had the kind of wheels that were made for the ambulances of the day. Firestone racing tires were placed on them. To help prevent flats, sealed-air inner tubes were inside the tires.

Early advertisements show these tubes driven over beds of nails many times. The tire could be punctured hundreds of times without going flat.

Fortunately for Phillips, the hot rod industry was taking off, and he could get many of the items he needed through mail order. Companies such as Edelbrock were building speed equipment and race engines and were shipping parts all over the country. It was then possible to double the horsepower of the early V8 engine.

Phillips was an avid race fan and made trips to Daytona to watch races on the sand in the days before NASCAR was formed. He knew lots of local dirt track racers and was friends with racing legends like Raymond Parker and Roy Hall, not to mention ace mechanic Red Vogt. Phillips made many trips to Vogt's racing shop in Atlanta and no doubt conferred with him on building a motor for his 1939 Ford.

In 1946, he collaborated with Vic Edelbrock on building an engine for his moonshine car.

That car was something special and would not be the thing that did him in. The feds finally got him when he was driving a big truck he'd gotten from Mississippi. He could haul over 1,300 gallons of 'shine, but couldn't move like a rocket ship. Being caught hauling that much liquor means a pretty stiff sentence, and John Will Phillips had to pay the fiddler. He did time in the Atlanta penitentiary. His son, Robert Phillips, was caught in the same incident and served probation.

John Will Jr. has had a good, but much less exciting life than his dad. He carried on the family skill in being a good mechanic in the construction industry. He was really good in managing a bulldozer and clearing land. He owns about 120 acres of land on a road that's named for his family near Lanett. He's now in his eighties and not in good health but loves to talk about his dad and his moonshine car.

When he shows it to you, as he was doing to lots of folks on Saturday, he'll show them some big dents that are in it. "That's from the time Fatty McGee, who was the chief of police in Lanett, hit the car with buckshot up on Jackson Hill," John Will Jr. says.

Built like a tank, that car shielded John Will Sr. from harm that night and on many other occasions as well. He ran from the police many times in that car and the men in blue took their share of shots at him, but neither John Will nor the car would be taken down by a bullet. Mr. Phillips was taken down by the grim reaper, dying of congestive heart failure in 1990.

John Will Jr.'s brother, Robert, died eight years ago, leaving him the one family member who can best share stories of his moonshine running dad and that incredible '39 Ford he used to drive.

"He really loved that make of car," says John Will Jr. "He had three of them, two to run moonshine and a third one for a family car."

One of those moonshine cars has been restored by Keith Klosterman of Keith's Restorations, Opelika and regularly makes the car show circuit. In no place should that car draw as much attention as it does in Chambers County. That was John Will Phillips' stomping grounds and the place he drew the ire of many a policeman.

School systems looking for special needs students
School systems looking for special needs students

By WAYNE CLARK

The Chambers County and Lanett City Schools are in the process of identifying and locating three groups of children: those in need of special education and related services, those in need of services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and those in need of gifted services.

Diane Sheriff, the special education coordinator for Chambers County Schools, says that children who are in need of special education services are those who are between three and 21 years of age who are known to have, or suspected to have, a disability that adversely affects educational performance and requires specially designed instruction.

"A child can need special education services even if he or she is advancing from grade to grade," Sheriff explains. "Services are offered in a number of areas of disability including autism, deaf- blindness, developmental delay, emotional disability, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disabilities, speech and language impairment, traumatic brain injury and visual impairment."

Christy Carpenter, the special education coordinator for Lanett City Schools, says that students in need of services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are those known to have, or suspected to have, a disability which limits a major activity but who are not eligible for or receiving special education services. "These limitations can include caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, speaking, seeing, hearing, breathing or learning, reading, concentrating or thinking," Carpenter says.

Students in need of gifted services, said Sheriff, are those who perform, or have demonstrated the potential to perform, at high levels in academic or creative fields when compared to others of their age, experience or environment and who require services not ordinarily provided by the regular school program.

Anyone who knows a child who needs such services and who lives in Chambers County, but outside the Lanett city limits, is asked to call Diane Sheriff at (334) 864-9343 ext. 10203 or 706-586-2280 (Valley area) from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CDT. Anyone knowing of such a child in Lanett is asked to contact Christy Carpenter at (334) 644-5900 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. EDT.

The Chambers County and Lanett City Schools are HIPAA compliant. For questions about the privacy rights of students living within the Chambers County School District, please contact Stephanie Chappell at (334) 864-9343 ext. 10217. For questions about the privacy rights of students who live in the Lanett school zone please contact Lanett City Schools at (334) 644-5900.

Police reports for Friday, September 23, 2016
Police reports for Friday, September 23, 2016

Lanett Police

LANETT — David Wayne Crowder, 50, of Lanett was arrested for bail jumping second degree.

Nneka Ekoi Robinson, 25, of Lanett was arrested for bail jumping second degree.

Theft of property fourth degree and burglary third degree were reported in the 2300 block of South Second Avenue.

Identity theft was reported in the 1700 block of South Third Street.

Domestic violence third degree was reported in the 1400 block of South Seventh Street.

Domestic violence third degree was reported in the 100 block of North Gilmer Avenue.

Domestic violence third degree was reported in the 1400 block of South Eighth Avenue.

Unlawful breaking and entering of a motor vehicle and theft of property third degree were reported in the 600 block of South Third Avenue.

Criminal trespass third degree was reported in the 1500 block of South Fourth Avenue.

Criminal possession of a forged instrument was reported in the 100 block of North Gilmer Avenue.

Harassment was reported in the 1800 block of 68th Court SW.

Domestic violence third degree was reported in the 5300 block of 16th Street SW.

Domestic violence third degree was reported in the area of 44th Avenue SW.

Valley Police

VALLEY — Dwayne Hood, 59, of Atlanta was arrested for identity theft.

Jonathan Lamar Craven, 43, of Lanett was arrested for theft by fraudulent leasing.

Harassment was reported in the 2400 block of 19th Place.

Theft of property fourth degree and criminal trespass third degree were reported in the 20 block of Boulevard.

Burglary third degree and theft of property third degree were reported in the 2200 block of 50th Street.

West Point Police

WEST POINT — Fredrick Douglas Malone, 43, of Lanett was arrested for driving with a suspended license.

Criminal trespass was reported on Avenue C.

Chambers Sheriff

LaFAYETTE — Lorenza Levett, 47, of Valley was arrested for burglary second degree and theft of property third degree.

David Crowder, 50, of Lanett was arrested on a grand jury indictment for burglary third degree and theft of property second degree.

Maria Little, 42, of Valley was arrested for failure to appear-possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana second degree and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Sheriff officials reported 145 inmates in the chambers County Detention Facility.

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Valley trying to end skid in homecoming vs. Dadeville
Valley trying to end skid in homecoming vs. Dadeville

By Scott Sickler

Times-News Sports Editor

VALLEY — It’s been a tough season to date for coach Brad Lowe’s Valley Rams (1-4, 0-3) but the first-year mentor has told the fan base Valley is a youth-dominated club and better days are ahead for the tradition-rich program.

They’re just experiencing growing pains, trying to establish a consistent offense, strong team defensive play and learning how to overcome adversity and have confidence in learning how to turn close games from defeats into wins.

Winning and losing are habits and Valley is in transition, trying to do what it takes to win close games.

Case in point last week in a gut-wrenching, late-game 19-14 region loss at home to Lincoln High. Valley led 14-3 early but just couldn’t make the plays necessary in the fourth quarter to halt a Lincoln rally for the win.

“We played hard against Lincoln, just didn't do what it takes to win,” Lowe said. “We're trying to overcome that; be resilient. When you've been down like we have, it takes a lot to push through that barrier, a lot of things work against you — doubt, lack of ownership, unfamiliar means to accomplish the task, criticism. We aren't where we need to be or want to be. Everyone we play will at least be as good as us, if not better. We've got to continue to find ways to win the small battles and build on them. Dadeville has a difference maker at quarterback and they're big up front. It will be difficult to contain the quarterback, especially as passes break down and he begins to scramble. I'll say it again; there aren't magic plays or quick fixes to change a culture. We have made strides and will continue to work to do so.”

Valley will host Dadeville tonight for homecoming.

Three homecoming games highlight big prep weekend
Three homecoming games highlight big prep weekend

By Scott Sickler

Times-News Sports Editor

We’re in the middle of the high school football season with five teams at home Friday, including three homecoming contests for Valley, Springwood and Troup.

Three of the local teams are still unbeaten in AHSAA 2A No. 4 Lanett and No. 5 LaFayette as well as AISA No. 7 Chambers Academy.

While Lanett, LaFayette and Chambers are all locks for the postseason, region titles are also in the balance over the course of the next month.

The Panthers and Bulldogs appear to be on a collision course for the 2A-Region 5 championship at Bulldogs Stadium, Oct. 21.

Handley at No. 4 Lanett (5-0, 2-0)

The visiting Tigers from Roanoke could present the toughest challenge for coach Clifford Story’s unbeaten Panthers in its quest to secure a perfect regular season.

It’s not a region game but Handley has the best personnel Lanett has seen to date and a ton of experience with 36 seniors on the roster.

Handley is big, physical and experienced and that spells a very tough foe for Lanett.

The Panthers are big, athletic and very skilled as well and although they only have five seniors, Lanett has a plethora of skilled guys on both sides of the ball.

It could be one of the best games of the season.

Dadeville at Valley (1-4, 0-3)

Last week’s region loss to Lincoln High was a devastating defeat for coach Brad Lowe’s Valley Rams.

Valley has lost three straight and badly needs a confidence-building win Friday in a homecoming contest against Dadeville High.

Look for big games from Jahleel Flournoy, Mack Jackson and others on offense and a solid effort on defense as the Rams snap the kid in style with a big win.

Macon-East at Springwood (3-1, 1-1)

The Springwood Wildcats look to return to its winning ways Friday in a big homecoming game against Macon-East.

“We are excited to host Macon-East this Friday for homecoming,” Hill said. “Even though we are 3-1, we still have a lot of improvements that need to be made. We need to really fine tune over the next couple weeks before we hit the onslaught of our region play.”

No. 7 Chambers (4-0) at Kingwood

Coach Jason Allen’s No. 7-ranked Rebels have been one of the hottest teams in the area at 4-0 with an outstanding team.

Look for the Rebels to roll Friday.

Wadley at Beulah (0-4, 0-3)

Coach Jarrod Wooten’s Beulah Bobcats are still in search of its first win and hope to pick it up Friday at home against Wadley. The Bobcats offense has improved a lot and rang up a season-high 32 points in last week's loss at Coosa-Central.

Chapel Hill at Troup (3-1, 0-0)

Perhaps the most improved team in our seven-school area are coach Tanner Glisson’s surging Troup Tigers with three straight wins.

“I’m excited about where we are,” Glisson noted. “Our team is healthy and eager. The players are allowing us to coach them extremely hard and anytime that you have that, you have a chance. Friday is another big challenge. Chapel hill is 2-1-1 with their only loss being 28-27 to Stars Mill. They have a very dynamic quarterback, who is a huge threat running the ball, provably the best we've seen. It's going to take another team effort.”

Valley, Troup & Springwood homecomings Friday
Valley, Troup & Springwood homecomings Friday

By Scott Sickler

Times-News Sports Editor

Valley High, Troup and Springwood School will all celebrate homecoming festivities Friday in conjunction with home football games.

The Valley Rams will host the Dadeville Tigers, the Troup Tigers will open GHSA 4A-Region 5 play at Callaway Stadium against Chapel Hill High School and the Springwood Wildcats will entertain the Macon-East Knights at Springwood Stadium.

•Coach Brad Lowe’s Rams (1-3, 0-3) are looking to snap a three-game losing streak against a traditional foe in Dadeville.

Valley held a late lead against Lincoln last week but couldn’t hold on in falling to 0-3 in region play.

•Coach Tanner Glisson’s Tigers (3-1, 0-0) have won three straight and very easily could be 4-0. Troup has made tremendous improvement in all phases of its team, especially offensive production.

Junior quarterback Montez Crowe (6-5) has quickly developed into one of the best in the area as the “Air Troup” attack has been very efficient.

•Coach Thomas Hill’s Springwood Wildcats (3-1, 0-1) are looking to rebound from a loss to No. 1 Bessemer last week with a big homecoming win over Macon-East.

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