They buried one of Wilkes County's best-known former moonshiners Monday.
Willie Clay Call of North Wilkesboro died Friday at his home. He was 73.
He died a farmer, but back in the day, he ran moonshine like his
father and grandfather and his lifelong friend, Junior Johnson, who was
an honorary pallbearer at his funeral.
Call didn't take the same NASCAR path that Johnson did, but back in
the 1960s he liked to take his 1955 Ford out on the North Wilkesboro
Speedway during practice.
"Story he always told people was he outran Fred Lorenzen on several
occasions while out practicing," said Steve Wilson of the preservation
group Save the Speedway.
"Fast Freddie" Lorenzen won the Daytona 500 in 1965.
In his later years, Call served as a link to the past. In 2002, Call
and Johnson lent a car and copper still to the Reynolda House Museum of
American Art for an exhibit on moonshining.
Call provided a car for filming when the Wilkes Playmakers needed
video footage as part of a play about Johnson. And he provided
moonshining items for the Wilkes Heritage Museum in the old county
He set up a demonstration still for film crews, working in
cooperation with the town of Wilkesboro in promoting heritage and
"He was a friend of the town," said Wilkesboro Town Manager Ken Noland.
One of Call's survivors is his brother, Norman, who was not a moonshiner and is a former mayor of Wilkesboro.
Willie Clay Call opened his garage to Hot Rod magazine in 2005,
showing the magazine more than a half-dozen cars. These weren't replicas
of moonshine cars. They were cars that had logged thousands of miles
hauling illegal liquor.
His favorite was a 1961 Chrysler New Yorker, a big-finned car that could do 180 mph, he said.
At a reunion of bootleggers and revenuers a few years ago, Call sat
in a rocking chair on stage as people swapped stories about how things
used to be.
One of the law enforcement agents recalled Call as "uncatchable."
Charles Mercer was one of the former revenuers at the gathering in
2009. He told a story about his last day on the job in 1974, when he was
determined to catch Call. Mercer staked out Call's home for hours.
It didn't do any good, and Mercer called to have a fellow agent pick him up.
Call came out to meet them.
"I understand you're leaving," Call told Mercer. "I really appreciate the way you've done your job."