The Prince of Dark Corners

-By John Armor

The Prince of Dark Corners was either a dangerous, wanton criminal, or a generous, hard-working hero to hundreds of needy families, a century ago in the area not far from my home. It is also the title of a one-man show about Major Lewis Redmond, who died hereabouts in 1906.

Like many (former) fugitives, he had dozens of bullet holes in his body. Unlike most fugitives, he did not die young. He died at home and at peace because he just plumb wore out. He was accused of many things, but the main thing he did was develop a wide-reaching bootleg liquor operation, not once but several times, and provided steady income that kept many families from starvation in the decades after the Civil War.

Dark Corners was the area where North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia borders come together. It was unclear, deep in the woods, exactly where the borders were. And wanted criminals found it handy to set up shop there, and move from point to point when the local authorities from one state or another got too hot on their heels.

I’ll tell you just one of the many intriguing parts of Major Redmond’s career as an enticement to you to pursue the subject, perhaps buy and view the video, or best of all, take the opportunity to see the show done live by Milton Higgins in one of the many towns where Major Redmond hung his hat in his day.

The play was written by the legendary Gary Carden, who among his other skills is a teacher of Appalachian history and a teller of tales. He found and chose Higgins to play the part. In the span of less than two hours, Higgins makes all listeners believe that he was Major Redmond, and that he really lived here a century ago. Here’s one website for more information:

And now for the enticement: though Redmond was charged with several murders, he committed only one, and he was never charged with that one. A Deputy Sheriff that Redmond knew personally, stopped Redmond and his partner when they were carrying a full load of moonshine into town. He shot the Deputy in the throat, and as he sat dying in the road, Redmond said, “I couldn’t let you take us to jail. Who would feed our children?”

At the end of his life, when Redmond was rocking on his porch, talking with the ghosts from his past, he apologized to the Deputy, and said he understood.

Decades after that shooting, Redmond was captured, and moved to a different jail because the authorities feared that his gang would come to town and spring him, as local newspapers were urging in their editorials. He was convicted of several counts of bootlegging and one of stealing a Deputy’s overcoat. Sentenced to ten years in a Connecticut prison, he was pardoned after three years because the Governor of South Carolina, and possibly the North Carolina Governor as well, wrote to President Chester Arthur, urging his release.

Why have I spent so much time telling you about a long-dead criminal you’ve never heard of before?

It’s because underneath the surface of politics, or worse, of political theory as spouted by academics, there is a layer of reality. Or, at least there should be a layer of reality. If you dig down into the books, lectures and theories of your professors of politics, history and such, you should find flesh and blood. If you don’t find flesh and blood, you can dismiss the life’s work of that professor as unproven and unreal.

The same goes for your children’s professors. Or, your grandchildren’s professors, if you’re in the grandfather business.

And what is the yardstick by which you can measure flesh and blood? If you’re lucky, you still remember what you once knew about that. But if you’ve lost touch, a little or a lot, you could do worse than to hear the script written by Gary Carden, see the performance of Milton Higgins, or learn the story of Major Lewis Redmond, honored with the title of “the Prince of Dark Corners.”

By the way, Major Redmond spent most of his life fighting various levels of government. But at the end, he was hired to run a distillery that produced a legal whiskey with his picture right on the label.
John Armor is a graduate of Yale, and Maryland Law School, and has 33 years practice at law in the US Supreme Court. Mr. Armor has authored seven books and over 750 articles. Armor happily lives on a mountaintop in the Blue Ridge. He can be reached at:

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