Name: Mrs. Amelia Hawkins, “The Liquor Queen”
Occupation/ Cover: Liquor store proprietor
Racket: Mrs. Hawkins runs a serious bootlegging operation out of her chain of three liquor stores, Hawkins Spirits. While much of her stock is bought legally, a large portion is stolen from trucks and warehouses all over the South and sold at cut rate prices- without buying the stock or paying Mississippi’s heavy taxes on the product there’s massive profit. She also does a thriving backdoor trade on contraband alcohol. She has moonshiners working stills for her in the swamps and backwoods. Thieves operating in Texas and Oklahoma steal cases of Coors beer for her, a popular product that is not sold in this part of the country and can easily be sold for three times the price it gets out West. Her most sought-after and profitable product, though, is Cuban rum smuggled to her by boat captains working the Gulf Coast.
Public Goals: To the public, Mrs. Hawkins presents the air of a successful and philanthropic businesswoman. She appears frequently at community meetings to suggest new business-friendly policies and try to attract employers to the county. Additionally, she participates in several charity events. While many residents are aware of her activities on some level, she is generally respected as a community pillar.
Private Goals: Due to her upbringing, Mrs. Hawkins is determined to cling to the respect and wealth that she feels is her due. She is aggressively protective of what she has built and will defend it with violence if necessary.
Supporting Cast: Harold Cokeley- Cokeley drifted into O’Connor County after two combat tours with Army Air Cav in Vietnam. Mrs. Hawkins offered the young man a job managing her flagship store, earning his loyalty. He handles the physical end of her business, including the rough stuff.
Personal History: The Burke family might be described as hillbillies. They’d probably call themselves that, given the chance. They had a reputation all throughout their isolated region of Arkansas as mean-spirited and dangerous, just as likely to take potshots at you over some imagined slight as they were to steal your livestock at night.
Amelia Burke was born in 1925, the sixth child in the family, and grew up knowing a life of poverty and petty crime. She still remembers the lessons in how to shoot and fish and steal, but not much from school, which she left in third grade despite her grades being high. To the Burkes, it was simply a way of life, eking out a meager backwoods living on hunting and farming, that was occasionally supplemented by theft. Amelia, however, had read enough books to know there was a larger world out there. She was determined to have fine clothes, a nice house, everything that had been denied her. Options were slim for a young woman in that time period, however, so she felt her best option was to marry a rich man.
At 17, she ran away from home. Her parents never bothered to look for her, most likely grateful to have one less mouth to feed. The ongoing war made it an excellent time, with plenty of well-paying jobs suddenly open to young women. She found work in various factories, carefully saving her pay and taking as much overtime as she could. She found herself enjoying the freedom and independence.
After the war, she found herself working as a shopgirl in Oxford, Mississippi, home of the famous Ole Miss university. Amelia calculated that a college town was a good place to find a nice man, and she was proven correct when she met Carter Hawkins, scion of an O’Connor County family. After a whirlwind romance they were married in 1945. Seeing the fancy beach house and the new Studebaker, the new Mrs. Amelia Hawkins felt her future was assured.
That is, until 1950. Seized by a burst of patriotic fervor, Carter volunteered to serve in Korea and was almost immediately killed in action. Widowed by a Chinese bullet at the young age of 25, Mrs. Hawkins soon found that the inheritance was not quite as large as she hoped, as Carter (ever the goody-two-shoes) had left significant portions of his assets to various charities. Sympathetic in-laws and friends helped set her up with a candy shop, a respectable business for a young Southern widow. While she discovered a natural talent for business, the income wasn’t quite in keeping with her vision for herself. And so, with almost no reluctance, the widow Hawkins turned to crime.
Her backwoods upbringing gave her a good working knowledge of moonshine. She knew what was good and what was bad, what it would sell for, what could be produced in quantity. And Mississippi was thirsty- the state government had voted to keep Prohibition in place. She made a few discreet inquiries, found out who in the county had the highest quality stills, and worked out partnerships with them. Word spread around the O’Connor County underworld- the best shine could be purchased out of the candy shop. The money was good, and she began slowly making connections and expanding. She allied with other area racketeers out of common interest.
Mississippi finally allowed the sale of alcohol in 1966, which hardly slowed her down. She legitimized, selling the candy store and opening three branches of Hawkins Spirits- one in the county seat, one in a smaller town in swamp country, and one on the beaches hoping to cater to the tourists. Out of town thieves were recruited to hijack liquor trucks and burgle wholesaler warehouses. A few consultations with a slick Memphis lawyer resulted in introductions being made to Italians in Chicago, who in turn put her in touch with even more thieves and a smuggler who procured her rum from Cuba- her riskiest but highest margin item.
Times are good right now, she has everything she ever dreamed of- money, influence, respect. And Mrs. Amelia Hawkins, the Liquor Queen, intends to keep it that way.
Notes: While she deliberately keeps away from the violent side of her business, Mrs. Hawkins almost always goes armed, usually with a nickel-plated Smith and Wesson Model 36.