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Throughout the course of its 152 years of history, the State of West Virginia has produced more than its fair share of interesting characters and historical anecdotes.
Even still, it’s hard to imagine any other West Virginian who can make a claim that equals that of M.M. “Mack” Day, a McDowell County lawman and Gospel minister.
Born in the summer of 1873 in Southwestern Virginia, Day was shaped by a turbulent childhood that was later compounded when the family “found religion.”
As a young teenager, Day left his home in the Old Dominion and took a job in West Virginia’s southernmost county of “Mack Dowell,” working tiring shifts as a coal miner.
Day’s time under the West Virginia hills would prove short-lived, however, as the ambitious youth educated himself and began teaching younger students at Bottom Creek Grade School.
According to biographers, “his position in the county was solidified when on Christmas Day, 1898, he married Charlotte June Milam, from one of the region’s first families. Going on to sire 12 children, Day became a pillar of McDowell County.”
In the days ahead, the West Virginian would get saved, baptized and later ordained to serve as a minister.
In the opening years of the twentieth century, Southern West Virginia was rife with alcoholism and illegal moonshining served as one of the region’s largest exports… Mingo County owes its entire existence to illegal moonshining!
Seeing the negative affects liquor was having on his community, Day became convinced that God had called him to enforce federal prohibition laws.
The larger than life hero of the hills worked in multiple law enforcement capacities throughout his career, serving as both sheriff of McDowell County and as a Federal Prohibition Agent.
Jean Battlo, of Goldenseal Magazine, wrote, “According to his late son, Jim Day of Belcher Mountain, Ripley’s reported that Mack had once ‘married a man to his sweetheart, baptized the same man and then, regrettably, had to shoot and kill the man for his later crimes. Preacher Day preached the funeral.’”
Described by U.S. Judge George W. McClintic as “honest, faithful truthful and a public servant who believed in the enforcement of the law,” Day’s reputation for being a tougher than nails law enforcement officer was known throughout the mountains – according to descendants, Day even arrested his own son and uncle for possessing illegal moonshine.
True to the book the minister carried each Sunday, “all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword,” Day’s demise came in a bloody shootout in the opening weeks of 1925.
According to the February 15, 1925, edition of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Day “was shot to death Saturday morning near Roderfield by Jim Sneed, a bootlegger and moonshiner, who was later riddled with bullets in a battle with Federal Agent R.M. Taylor, and Deputy Prohibition Commissioner Ell Watkins, both of Bluefield.
“The double killing brought a tragic climax to a several days raid through McDowell County which had resulted in the arrest and conviction of seven persons charged with violating the prohibition laws.”
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