How Randolph County was able to stay dry so long is a complicated story of “alcohol is evil” traditions, evangelical opposition and a political maneuver by a local representative who denied residents of Randolph and Clay counties the right to vote their municipalities wet. It’s an exclusion that may have backfired in the long run.
Supporters of legalization stressed the economic benefits — tax revenue, new businesses and jobs — while opponents argued that the new revenue would not compensate for the expense of enforcement. Plus, it is questionable how many businesses (other than liquor stores) would locate in Randolph County because alcohol was legal.
However, in many ways it was a meaningless debate. As was frequently pointed out, nearby Chambers County was wet, and anyone who wanted to buy alcohol only had to drive a few miles to get it. So why not let Randolph County residents save the driving and the gas and buy it at home? Keeping Randolph County dry would not limit residents’ access to alcohol. It was already there.
What a dry Randolph County did limit was income. As the aptly named “Keep Dollars in Randolph County” stressed, people driving to other counties were contributing to someone else’s local economy. They were paying taxes that went to another county’s schools and roads instead of paying taxes to support Randolph’s. Even those who did not drink found something positive in taxing those who do.
Thus, Randolph County residents voted their pocketbooks, and one more symbol of the old order fell to advocates of the new.
Now there is only one.