1933 Mar Chief: Avery Years

Chief, the co-founder of the Washington County Ghost Riders and the lone founder of the Ghost Riders Nation, has been in Johnson City, TN for so long that most people have no idea that he is actually from the mountains of Avery County, NC.


Chief’s real name is James Clayton Moody and he was born March 21, 1933 in Banner Elk, NC.  At that time the hospital was located at what is now the Lees-McRae college.

1940 Grace Hospital in Banner Elk

Chief’s family home was in Elk Park, NC.  He was the son of Lucy Moody but he was raised by his grandparents, Tom and Julia Moody.

Elk Park

This is what Elk Park looked like in 1933 when Chief was born.

ElkPark 1930's

This is a winter painting of Elk Park around the 1930’s time period.

Elk Park by Don Iverson

They started working on the Blue Ridge Parkway December 1, 1940.


This was a pic of the west side of Elk Park in November 1942.  Chief was eight years old.  The road running up hill to the right goes to the old Moody homeplace.  Toker still lives there to this day.

This is a train magazine cover pic of what the east side of Elk Park looked like while Chief was growing up around 1945 at age twelve.

Elk Park-23 12 02 13

This is a close up view of the train depot in Elk Park.  As a twelve year old and above boy Chief hung out here.

Elk Park-25

This is the Grist Mill in Elk Park.  As a boy Chief would carry garden products from his home there to have them milled.  He then carried the milled products back home.

Grist Mill Elk Park

At around thirteen Chief worked for Brinkley’s Hardware.  (This is a before Chief picture.)  Chief helped unload boxcars and stored the newly arrived merchandise in the Brinkley storage unit.1910 Elk Park-6

Also part of Chief”s job was to help deliver ordered supplies to job sites or people’s homes.

Elk Park Brinkley's truck

Chief attended church at the Elk Park Christian church as well as many others.

Elk Park Christian Church about 12

As a boy Chief and his friends rode their bicycles down to the Elk Falls to go swimming, as they still do today.

Elk Falls-55

This is a pic of a 1940’s Elk Park winter.  Chief used to love to dig snow tunnels as a kid.

1940's Elk Park

This is the TN side of 1940’s Elk Park.  The road going up hill to the right leads up to the old Moody homestead.

1940's Elk Park-2

This is Constable Paul Cook who was the law enforcement when Chief was growing up in Elk Park.  Paul Cook was older than this picture when Chief was a boy.  He wore a suit and not this uniform.

Constable Paul Cookof Elk Park

Chief  got his first motorcycle while living in Elk Park.   To his best recollection, at age 79, it was a 1947 Indian Chief.  That is how he came up with his motorcycle club name “Chief”.1947 Indian Chief

This is Chief at age 79 at a Ghost Riders party in Johnson City, Tn on Feb. 9, 2013.  This picture was taken just a few days before this interview was conducted.

2-9-13 GRMC Washington 004


5 Responses to “1933 Mar Chief: Avery Years”

  1. Philip turner Says:

    I think its great that your history and your brothers are not forgotten…

  2. debbie moody Says:

    this is my dad chief that love dearly and hope he lives to b a 100
    he has been a great dad and has been there for me and toker we will never forget him

  3. Jody Isaacs Says:

    I first met Chief around 1985. He worked with me and my mother on top of Sugar Mountain. He is a great guy! I have thought about him from time to time over the years, and actually stopped in to see him a couple years ago as I passed thru Johnson City and Elizabethton. I was so glad to hear that he was still kickin’. When you see him, tell him Jody & Kathie said “HI”!

  4. Marcia Starnes Says:

    I enjoyed the pics of Banner Elk back in the day.

  5. Chaos (MAYHEM's wife - Lenoir County) Says:

    Thank you for sharing your family history with all of us. What an incredible legacy Chief created.
    Thank you, Toker and Deb and your whole family for helping lay the foundation with your dad that has now grown to The Ghostrider Nation! So many folks that I am proud to call my FAMILY!

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