"Grace and Disgrace is a famous/infamous Georgia story that has been waiting for a capable storyteller for too long."
- Sally Russell, author of Shatter Me with Dawn
- Dink NeSmith, Co-owner of Community Newspapers Inc.
"This book offers a welcome and enriching new dimension on the astonishing life and expanding legend of one of the most cold-blooded killers in modern-day Georgia history."
- James C. Cobb, author of Georgia Odyssey & Professor Emeritus: University of Georgia
"Phil Hudgins' account of the life led by Birt's wife, Ruby Nell, his son, Shane, and of Birt himself is a telling of a bizarre life in which right and wrong get turned upside-down."
- Robert Williams, former president, National Newspaper Association
Law enforcement considered him the number one murderer in the state of Georgia. Billy Sunday Birt, a hit man for the so-called Dixie Mafia, was a man no one dared to anger. Yes, he loved all of his five children--but his love was a moving target.
As son Shane Birt says in the Introduction, "I know what it's like to be loved by murderers, because all my life I've been loved by murderers." He was two and a half years old when his father went to prison for the last time. When Shane was about sixteen, his daddy started talking about some of his hits, accounts offered in bits and pieces. Shane remembers those jailhouse talks. He remembers enough to have helped solve a 50-year-old triple murder in Boone, North Carolina.
One day, during a prison visit, Shane asked Bill, "Daddy, how could you have done all those awful things?" Bill said, "Son, to me, it was just a job." Bill had a reason behind every one of his killings.
Much has been written about Billy Birt, and much of it is romanticized. Some of it is not true. What is truly genuine is the life of Ruby Nell Birt, Shane's mother and Billy's wife. She is a devout Pentecostal woman who worked five jobs to put food on the table and clothes on the backs of her children - the true family hero.
A plaque hangs on the screened-in front porch of Ruby's house. It says, "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass... It is about learning to dance in the rain." Ruby Nell Birt learned to dance in a flood.