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Battle of Athens (1946)

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Battle of Athens
Date August 1–2, 1946
Location Athens, Tennessee, United States
35°26′31″N 84°35′31″W / 35.442°N 84.592°W / 35.442; -84.592Coordinates: 35°26′31″N 84°35′31″W / 35.442°N 84.592°W / 35.442; -84.592
Result McMinn County government forced to disband, replaced by new government
Belligerents
Local World War II veterans and other citizens. McMinn County Sheriff's Department
Commanders and leaders
Bill White
James Buttram
Knox Henry
Frank Charmichael
George Painter
Charles Picket
E. R. Self
all but one were ex-GIs
Sheriff Pat Mansfield
Boe Dunn
State Senator Paul Cantrell
Strength
Casualties and losses
Some injuries, no fatalities Many injuries, some severe, no fatalities

The Battle of Athens (sometimes called the McMinn County War) was a rebellion led by citizens in Athens and Etowah, Tennessee, United States, against the local government in August 1946. The citizens, including some World War II veterans, accused the local officials of predatory policing, police brutality, political corruption and voter intimidation. The event is sometimes cited by firearms ownership advocates as an example of the value of the Second Amendment in combating tyranny.[1][2][3][4]

Background

Concern over the election of Abraham Lincoln brought the Southern States to consider secession. The northern and middle Southern states were opposed. Tennessee citizens, the white males, voted 69,675 to 57,798 against secession.[5] Much of that no vote came from the mountainous East Tennessee with McMinn county voting against Secession 1,144 to 904.[6] Following the attack on Fort Sumter, Tennessee, along with the rest of the middle tier of Southern States seceded, yet the mountainous counties of those states remained largely pro-Union. The mountain counties of Virginia formed West Virginia while East Tennessee rose up in revolt and fell into guerrilla disorder until the Union Army arrived in 1863. Then almost 30,000 Eastern Tennessee men joined the Union Army.[7] McMinn County raised 12 regiments for the Union as opposed to only 8 for the Confederacy.[8] For the next 74 years McMinn county was split with Republicans generally holding office.[9]

In 1936 the E. H. Crump machine, which ruled Tennessee, descended upon McMinn County in the person of one Paul Cantrell, the Democratic candidate for sheriff.[10] Cantrell, who came from a family of money and influence in nearby Etowah, tied his campaign closely to the popularity of the Roosevelt administration and rode FDR's coattails to victory over his Republican opponent in what came to be known as "vote grab of 1936" which delivered McMinn County into the grasp of Tennessee's Crump Machine.[10] Paul Cantrell was elected sheriff in the 1936, 1938, and 1940 elections, and was elected to the state senate in 1942 and 1944, while his former deputy, Pat Mansfield, a transplanted Georgian, was elected sheriff.[10] A state law enacted in 1941 had reduced local political opposition by reducing the number of voting precincts from 23 to 12 and reducing the number of justices of the peace from fourteen to seven (including four "Cantrell men").[9] The sheriff and his deputies worked under a fee system whereby they received money for every person they booked, incarcerated, and released; the more arrests, the more money they made.[9] There was extensive "fee grabbing" from tourists and travelers.[11] Buses passing through the county were often pulled over and the passengers were randomly ticketed for drunkenness, whether guilty or not.[9] Between 1936 and 1946 the fees amounted to almost $300,000.[11]

Citizens of McMinn County had long been concerned about political corruption and possible election fraud though some of the complaints, especially at first, may have been partisan carping.[9][12] The U.S. Department of Justice had investigated allegations of electoral fraud in 1940, 1942, and 1944, but had not taken action.[9] The ability to control the vote was essential to the control of McMinn County. Manipulation of the poll tax, and the counting of the votes were the primary methods, but it was not uncommon for the dead to vote in McMinn County.[11] The Cantrell machine reaped much in corruption through allowing gambling and boot legging. With most of the young men away at war the deputies, many ex-convicts, were enforcers for the machine and ran roughshod over the citizens of the county.[11] Machine control extended to the newspapers and schools. When asked if the Daily Post-Athenian supported the GIs, Bill White replied: "No, they didn't help us none." White elaborated: "Mansfield had complete control of everything, schools and everything else. You couldn't even get hired as a schoolteacher without their okay, or any other job."[13]

The service men of McMinn County heard of what was going on and were anxious to get home and do something about it. One veteran said he "thought a lot more about McMinn County than he did about the Japs. If democracy was good enough to put on the Germans and the Japs, it was good enough for McMinn County, too!"[11] During the war two service men on leave were shot and killed by Cantrell thugs.[11] The scene was set for a confrontation when McMinn County's GIs were demobilized. When they arrived home the "deputies" targeted the returning GIs, one reported "A lot of boys getting discharged [were] getting the mustering out pay. Well, deputies running around four or five at a time grapping up every GI they could find and trying to get that money off of them, they were fee grabbers, they wasn't on a salary back then."[14]

In the August 1946 election, Paul Cantrell was running for Sheriff, while Pat Mansfield was to run for the State Senate seat. Byrum speculates the reason was an attempt to spread the graft amongst themselves.[11] Bill White claims the reason for the swap was because they thought Cantrell stood a better chance running against the GIs.[15] The GIs were motivated more by hostility towards Sheriff Mansfield and his deputies rather than against Cantrell whose reign as sheriff had been relatively benign.[16]

McMinn County had around 3,000 returning military veterans, constituting almost 10 percent of the county population. Some of the returning veterans resolved to challenge Cantrell's political control by fielding their own nonpartisan candidates and working for a fraud-free election. A meeting was called in May, veteran ID was required for admission. A non-partisan slate of candidates was selected.[17]

Veteran Bill White described the veterans' motivation:

There were several beer joints and honky-tonks around Athens; we were pretty wild; we started having trouble with the law enforcement at that time because they started making a habit of picking up GIs and fining them heavily for most anything—they were kind of making a racket out of it. After long hard years of service—most of us were hard-core veterans of World War II—we were used to drinking our liquor and our beer without being molested. When these things happened, the GIs got madder—the more GIs they arrested, the more they beat up, the madder we got ....[9]

The members of the GI Non-Partisan League were very careful to make their list of candidates match the demographics of the county, three Republicans and two Democrats.[18][19] Respected, and decorated veteran of North African campaign, Knox Henry stood as candidate for sheriff in opposition to Cantrell.[9]

There were large contributions made by local businessmen so the GIs' campaign was well funded. The people of McMinn county figured that no matter how they voted, the machine would rig the election. In reply the veteran's slogan was "Your Vote Will Be Counted As Cast,"[17] The veterans had cast down the gauntlet.

Well aware of the methods of Sheriff Mansfield and his thugs, the League organized a counterpoise. A "fightin bunch" was organized, led by Bill White, it was "to keep them from beating up GIs and keep them from taking the election."[20] White created his organization carefully; he later recalled: "I got out and started organizing with a bunch of GIs. Well spirits—I learned that you get the poor boys out of poor families, and the ones that was frontline warriors that's done fighting and didn't care to bust a cap on you. I learned to do that. So that's what I picked. I had thirty men and ... I took what mustering out pay I got and bought pistols. And some of them had pistols. I had thirty men organized".[20] Sheriff Mansfield too had organized for the upcoming election, hiring 200 deputies, most from neighboring counties, some from out of state, at $50 a day (equivalent to $608 in 2015).[9]

Battle

Polls for the county election opened August 1, 1946. About 200 armed deputies turned out to patrol the precincts—the normal complement of 15 deputies massively augmented by reinforcements from other counties and even from Georgia (Sheriff Mansfield's home state). Each party started with poll watchers at each polling place. In Etowah, a GI poll watcher requested a ballot box to be opened and certified as empty; such a request was his right by state law. He was promptly arrested. In Athens, Walter Ellis was charged with a "Federal Offense" and promptly jailed for protesting irregularities.[17]

GIs gathered in front of L.L. Shaefer's store which was used as an office by campaign manager Jim Buttram.[9] Buttram had telegraphed Governor McCord in Nashville and US Attorney General Tom Clark asking for help in ensuring a lawful election. The appeals were unanswered.[9] When it was learned that Sheriff Mansfield had sent armed guards to all polling places, a meeting of GIs was convened at the Essankay Garage where it was decided to arm themselves and meet back at the garage.[9]

Around 3:00 p.m. an elderly black man, Tom Gillespie, was denied the right, in racist terms, to vote by Cantrell guard "Windy" Wise at the Athens Water Works polling place. When Gillespie and a GI poll watcher objected, Wise struck Gillespie with brass knuckles. Gillespie dropped his ballot and ran away from the deputy. Wise pulled his pistol and shot the aged farmer in the back.[9][17]

Sheriff Mansfield sped to the Water Works and ordered the poll closed. During the subsequent confusion two GI poll watchers, Charles Scott and Ed Vestal, were taken captive inside the waterworks by Mansfield deputies Wise and Karl Nell. A crowd gathered and began to yell at the deputies. Scott and Vestal jumped through a plate glass window and fled, bleeding, to the safety of the crowd.[9] By another account there was a guns-drawn confrontation between Jim Buttram who was accompanied by Scott's father, and Sheriff Mansfield. Talks went on for the release of Scott and Vestal. When Neal Esminger showed up from the Daily Post-Athenian to get a vote count, the distraction allowed Scott and Vestal to break through a door and escape.[21] This was followed by a hail of gunfire which sent the crowd diving for cover, and the ballot box disappeared.[17] In the first account Wise then stepped through the window brandishing his pistol.[9]

Someone in the crowd yelled, "Let's go get our guns." The mob headed for the Essankay Garage. The two Cantrell deputies were rescued by Deputy Chief Deputy Boe Dunn, and they and the confiscated ballot box were taken to the jail.[9] Two deputies were dispatched to arrest the GIs who Wise recognized amongst the hostile crowd. When they arrived, they were beaten, disarmed and detained. So were two more reinforcements. The crowd grew, and when three more deputies arrived, they too were disarmed, beaten and dragged inside. GI advisor, Republican Election Commissioner and Republican Party Chairman, Otto Kennedy, asked Bill White what he was going to do. White said, "I don't know Otto; we might just kill them." According to White, Kennedy grew alarmed and announced "Oh Lord, oh Lord, oh Lord! No! I'm not having nothing else to do with this. Me and my brother and son-in-law is leaving here."[22] Lones Selber in American Heritage Magazine says Kennedy "left, vowing to have no part in murder."[9] The crowd and most GIs left. The remaining GIs took the seven hostages to a woods ten miles from Athens, stripped them, tied them to a tree and beat them.[9][22]

At the twelfth precinct the GI poll watchers were Bob Hairrell and Leslie Doolie, a one-armed veteran of the North African theater. The polling place was commanded by Mansfield man Minus Wilburn. Wilburn tried to let a young woman vote who had no poll tax receipt and who was not listed in the voter registration. Hairrell grabbed Wilburn's wrist when he tried to deposit the ballot in the box. Wilburn struck Hairrell on the head with a blackjack and kicked him in the face. Wilburn closed the precinct and took the captive GIs and ballot box across the street to the jail.[9] By another account a Bob Harrel objected to an underage girl being allowed to vote. He was brutally beaten and ended up in hospital.[17]

At one point deputies started cussing at and taunting the GIs. Bill White, leader of the "fighting bunch," told his lieutenant Edsel Underwood to take 5 or 6 men and break into the National Guard Armory and take some weapons. The GIs took the front door keys from the caretaker. After entering the Armory they broke into the weapon and ammo stores. They then armed themselves with sixty .30-06 Enfield rifles, two Thompson sub-machine guns and all the ammo they could carry. Lones Selber says White went for the guns himself.[9] Bill White then distributed the rifles and a bandolier of ammo each to 60 of the GIs.[23]

As the polls closed, and counting began (sans the three boxes the Cantrell machine deemed critical), the GIs had a comfortable 3 to 1 lead.[9][17] Deputies had seized the critical ballot boxes and took them to the jail.[24] When the GIs heard the deputies were taking the ballot boxes to the jail, Bill White exclaimed, "Boy, they doing something. I'm glad they done that. Now all we got to do is whip on the jail."[23]

The GIs had broken the law, and Cantrell could expect reinforcements in the morning; so the GIs had to resolve the situation quickly.[25] The deputies knew little of military tactics, but the GIs knew them well. Holed up in the jail, Mansfield's deputies had in fact trapped themselves. The GIs could take positions of advantage, and any shot from the jail could be met with a barrage from the second floor of the Bank.[25]

Present in the jail at 9:00 PM were Paul Cantrell, Pat Mansfield, George Woods (Speaker of the State House of Representatives and Secretary of the McMinn County Election Commission), and about 50 deputies. They were busy rummaging through the ballot boxes. Wood and Mansfield constituted a majority of the election commission and they could certify and validate the count.[25]

Estimates of the number of veterans besieging the jail vary from several hundred[24] to as high as 2,000.[19] Bill White had at least 60 under his command. White split his group with Buck Landers taking up position at the bank overlooking the jail while White took the rest by the Post Office.[23]

Just as the estimates of people involved vary widely, accounts of how the Battle of Athens began and its actual course disagree.

Edgerton and Williams inform us that when the men reached the jail, it was barricaded and manned by 55 deputies. The veterans demanded the ballot boxes but were refused. They then opened fire on the jail, initiating a battle that lasted several hours by some accounts,[19][24] considerably less by others.[26]

As Lones Selber, author of the 1985 American Heritage magazine article wrote: "Opinion differs on exactly how the challenge was issued." White says he was the one to call it out: "Would you damn bastards bring those damn ballot boxes out here or we are going to set siege against the jail and blow it down!" Moments later the night exploded in automatic weapons fire punctuated by shotgun blasts. "I fired the first shot," White claimed, "then everybody started shooting from our side." A deputy ran for the jail. "I shot him; he wheeled and fell inside of the jail."[9]

In 2000 Bill White claimed he said "Boys, ... I'm going to tell them to bring the ballot box out of there, and if they don't we're gonna open up on them.' I hollered in there, I said, 'You damn thieve grabbers, bring them damn ballot boxes out of there.' 'That's just what I said. He didn't make a move down there and finally one of them said, 'By God I heard a bolt click.' Down there—one of them grabbers did, you know—they started scattering around. And I had a pistol in my belt with a shotgun. I had a shotgun and a rifle. And I pulled the pistol out and started firing down there at them. Well, when I did that, all that whole line up there started firing down there in there. A lot of them got in the jail, some of them didn't, some of them got shot laying outside. And the battle started."[23]

Byrum wrote in 1984 "One shot from the jail, which in previous years would have been enough to disperse any objectionable crowd, was answered by a volley of fire that continued for hours." Then his history of McMinn County breezes over the battle proper and goes immediately to 3:30 AM when the deputies surrendered.[25]

The day after the battle the New York Times front page reported a Sheriff had been killed, and that the shooting had started with a shot through a jail window and with the demand the hostages be released. Then the Times reported the deputies refused and the siege ensued. The account followed, revealing the Times's source as Lowell F. Arterburn, publisher of The Athens Post Athenian. Arterburn reported shots being fired, 2,000 persons milling around and "at least a score of fist fights were in progress."[27]

An attempt by deputies outside the jail to reinforce (or take refuge in) the jail was thwarted by Bill White's "fighting band". Some people in the jail managed to escape out the back door.[23] The fleeing people were throwing down their weapons and running off, so White ordered his forces not to shoot the escapees.[28] One of the escapees was George Woods who had telephoned Birch Biggs, the boss of next door Polk County, requesting that Biggs send some of his muscle to break the siege. Biggs replied "Do you think I'm crazy?" Woods took leave of the jail.[9]

For the veterans it was win before morning or face a long time in jail for violating local, state and federal laws.[25] Rumors spread that the National Guard or State Troopers were coming.[9] White made hourly demands for surrender. The GIs attempted to fire the jail with Molotov cocktails but were not able to throw them far enough to reach the jail.[23] The GIs decided to resort to dynamite. At about that time an ambulance pulled up to the jail. The GIs assumed it was called to remove the wounded and held fire. Two men jumped in, and it sped off carrying Paul Cantrell and Sheriff Mansfield to safety out of town.[9]

Then the dynamite was deployed. Bill White said, "We'd put two or three sticks of dynamite together and tape it together and put a cap in there and a fuse. And we'd rear back and throw them. Well, we couldn't get them all the way to the jail, but we got them out to them cars. They'd blow them cars up in the air and turn them over and land them back on the top. Several cars down there were blowing up."[28] That first bomb landed under Bob Dunn's cruiser, flipping it on its back.[9] Bill White, commander of the "fighting bunch" knew the GIs had to do better: "I ... said, 'We're going to have to get some charges up there on that jail.' I said, 'Make a couple charges there.... We'll go down there and we'll place some charges.' So I made up a couple charges and I crawled up and put a charge on the jailhouse porch."[28] In fact three bombs went off almost simultaneously. One destroyed Mansfield's car, one landed on the jail porch roof, and one went off against the jail wall. The bombs caused some damage to the jail and scattered debris.[9] The larger bomb placed by Bill White against the jail wall did the job.

As with the beginning of the battle accounts of the end differ: American Heritage states, "In the end, the door of the jail was dynamited and breached. The barricaded deputies—some with injuries—surrendered, and the ballot boxes were recovered."[9]

The NY Times, in an inside article observed the night was "bloody" and that it ended after the GIs detonated 3 "home-made demolition charges."[29]

Byrum in his history of McMinn County reported the end of the battle thus: "By 3:30 a.m., the men holding the jail had been dynamited into submission, and by early morning George Woods was calling Ralph Duggan to ask if he could come to Athens and certify the election of the GI slate. Bill White reported that "when the GIs broke into the jail, they found some of the tally sheets marked by the machine had been scored fifteen to one for the Cantrell forces." When the final tally was completed, Knox Henry was elected.[25]

Bill White, ever garrulous, went into greater detail about the surrender: "Woo! Like that. First thing I know here come a bunch of white flags out the door. (Laughter) They'd given up! So it was about sixty of them in there. They come out there with pistols hanging on their fingers and everything else. And we come off the bank up there and we'd take their pistols off their fingers and throw them out there. We beat up some of them, you know. One that shot the black, you know, we pitched him out there and they liked to kill him. They beat him almost to death. Then they cut one ... throat out there in that crowd and beat up several of them, you know. Some of them [were] beaten up pretty bad. Marched them down round the courthouse, marched them back, and put them in jail. All but twenty were beat up pretty bad, and they put them in the hospital. The one they'd cut the throat, they took him to the hospital.[30] And they'd picked up a bunch of men whose arms were shot off, legs shot off, shot through the belly, you know, first one thing—there was several of them hurt pretty bad. But they all lived, you know, it was miracle. But they all lived, we wasn't trying to save their lives they just ... got lucky."[28]

During the fight at the jail, rioting had broken out in Athens, mainly targeting police cars.[19][24] This continued even after the ballot boxes were recovered, but subsided by morning.[26] The mob also destroyed automobiles of the deputies, many bearing out-of-state plates.[29] During the disorder the Mayor of Athens was on vacation and the city policemen were "nowhere to be found."[31]

The morning of August 2 found the town quiet. Some minor acts of revenge happened, but the public mood was one of "euphoria that had not been experienced in McMinn County in a long time."[32] Governor McChord moved to activate the national guard but quickly rescinded the order.[31] The morning saw the GIs call a meeting. GI Non-Partisan League Treasurer Harry Johnson opened the meeting observing it was necessary because "for some reason or other, the Sheriff's force is not around."[29] The approximately 400 persons in the court room elected a special committee headed by Methodist minister Bernie Hampton, joined by C.A. Anderson and Gobo Cartwright, both members of the Business Men's Evangelical Committee, to preserve law and order. George Wood, the escaped Secretary of the County Election Commission, sent a written missive saying: "Next Monday at 10 A.M. I will sign an election certificate certifying that the GI ticket was elected." Later the veterans turned responsibility for maintaining order in Athens to Police Chief Herbert Walker. The GIs said they were still "holding control" of McMinn County until September 1 when Knox Henry was to be installed as Sheriff.[29]

August 2 also saw the return to McMinn County of Sheriff elect Knox Henry, who had spent the night of August 1–2 in safe keeping in the Sweetwater, Tennessee jail. Sheriff Henry, a 33-year-old former Army Air Force Sergeant, observed "They were going to kill me yesterday, and I had to leave town."[29]

C.M. "Windy" Wise was the only person to face charges from the events of August 1–2, 1946. He was the deputy who shot old Tom Gillespie in the back. Wise was sentenced to 1–3 years in prison.[19]

Other Gun Related Tennessee Politics at the Same Time

McMinn County Tennessee was not the only county in that state to see guns used to settle a matter of ballot boxes the summer of 1946. In adjacent Meigs County another use of weapons to effect electoral change occurred. On August 5 the Meigs County Election Commission certified Republican Oscar Womac as Sheriff. Womac admitted to a reporter that he had ordered some associates to burn "a bunch of ballots." The ballots he claimed, were found in the Meigs County Courthouse the previous day. It was reported in The Chattanooga Times that Sheriff J.T. Pettit claimed the Peakland ballot box was taken at gun-point by Womac and companions from the County Clerk's office the day before the ballot burning. "There was little we could do to stop him, he was armed, and the four men with him were armed," Sheriff Pettit said.[33] In Monroe County, adjacent to and east of McMinn, and North of Polk counties, Jake Tipton age 65, was shot during a dispute at Vale precinct.[34]

Aftermath

The recovered ballots certified the election of the five GI Non-Partisan League candidates.[26] Among the reforms instituted was a change in the method of payment and a $5,000 salary cap for officials. In the initial momentum of victory, gambling houses in collusion with the Cantrell regime were raided and their operations demolished. Deputies of the prior administration resigned and were replaced.[26]

The ballots, when tallied, proved a landslide for the GI Non-Partisan League. Scores of veterans were present when Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, and secretary of the McMinn County election commissioners, George Woods was marched into the County Court House under the guard of ex-GIs. Speaker Woods had fled after the gun-fight.[33] League member Knox Henry received 2,175 against 1,270 for Sheriff Cantrell. The League also won the other races. It was 2,194 to 1,270 for Frank Carmichael as trustee; George Painter won the county clerk race 2,175 to 1,198; the circuit court clerk broke 2,165 to 1,197 for Charles Picket.[33]

Bill White, leader of the "fighting bunch," was made a Sheriff's Deputy, "They put me in as a deputy. Because, one of the reasons they put me in as deputies was to scare them GIs. (Laughs) They wanted me to control the GIs. Which they did—they fired into them people's houses and everything else. And that was my job to get out there and keep the GIs straight. And I did. I had sixteen fights in one weekend. Fighting GIs, keeping them from shooting them people's houses and beating up people. My fists got so sore I couldn't stick them in my pocket ... If you fight them with your fists, they had respect for you. But you didn't use blackjacks or guns on them. If you did they'd gang up on you and kill you."[16] According to deputy Bill White the fee basis for deputy pay continued for four more years. It was only the last four years he served that he was paid a salary.[16]

In early September the fall of the County political machine was followed by the resignation of Athens' Mayor, Paul Walker, and the town's four Aldermen. The resignations met with popular approval. The resignations came after a night time shot-gun blast through the front of Alderman Hugh Riggs's home.[35] Mayor Walker had previously refused a demand to resign made immediately after the gun-fight by the McMinn County American Legion and VFW posts.[36]

The "Battle of Athens" was followed by movements of veterans in other Tennessee counties promoting a statewide coalition against corrupt political machines in the upcoming November elections. Governor Jim McCord countered an attempt to form a "Non-Partisan GI Political League" by directing the Young Democrats Clubs of Tennessee to recruit ex-GIs. There were strenuous efforts by the "Crump Organization," based in Shelby County, to counter the nascent GI organization.[37] A convention was held in Alamo, Tennessee, with intention to establish a new national party. The convention was dissuaded by General Evans Carlson, USMC, who argued that the GIs should work through the existing political parties.[38]

The new GI government of Athens quickly encountered challenges including the re-emergence of old party loyalties.[39] On January 4, 1947, four of the five leaders of the GI Non-Partisan League declared in an open letter: "We abolished one machine only to replace it with another and more powerful one in the making."[40] The GI government of Athens, Tennessee collapsed. Tennessee's GI political movement quickly faded and politics in the state returned to normal.[19][41] The Non-Partisan GI Political League had replied to inquires by veterans elsewhere in the USA with the advice that shooting it out was not the most desirable solution to poiltical problems.[35]

Nationwide, ex-GIs became a potent political force for many decades to come. From 1952 to 1992 all US Presidents were veterans of WW II.

In the media

Joseph C. Goulden, in his history of immediate post-war America "The Best Years 1945-1950," discussed the Battle of Athens, how it sparked political ex-GI movements in three other Tennessee counties, as well as other boss ruled Southern states, led to a convention with representatives from several Southern states, and how it raised fears that veterans would resort to further violence.[38] The Battle of Athens came at a time, 1944–1946 when there was much concern that returning GIs would be dangerously violent. Those concerns were addressed in an opinion piece by Warden Lawes author of "Twenty Thousand Years at Sing Sing," in a New York Times opinion piece.[42] In a newspaper column Eleanor Roosevelt had expressed a somewhat popular opinion that GIs might be checked for violent tendencies before they were demobilized. Bill White, leader of Athens' "fighting band" came to see her point.[43] In fact one of the reasons the GI League in collapsed was continuing GI related violence in McMinn county.[44][45] The Battle of Athens initially received criticism in the press. Coverage quickly faded, and after Alan J. Gould, an executive with the Associated Press, told the Conference of State Directors of the Veterans Administration that the AP would try to suppress the use of the word "veteran" in conjunction with crime stories the story of GI violence began to disappear.[46]

During the 1980s, Athens was rediscovered and in certain circles became celebrated as a glorious moment in American patriotism. The 1992 made-for-television movie An American Story (produced by the Hallmark Hall of Fame) was loosely based upon the McMinn County War but set in a Texas town in 1945. It was nominated for two 1993 prime time Emmy Awards and one American Society of Cinematographers award.[47] The battle is also mentioned in the novel Unintended Consequences and in the movie Shooter. In 1996 C. Stephen Byrum, author of the history of McMinn County, published "August 1, 1946. The battle of Athens, Tennessee" a now rare and very expensive book.

References

  1. ^ "Eleanor Roosevelt on the Second Amendment & The Battle of Athens, page 1". abovetopsecret.com (Forum). 
  2. ^ Crocker, David (January 9, 2013). "The Second Amendment and the Battle of Athens". behindbluelines.com. 
  3. ^ "Imposing our undeniable will on the government through the power of our votes!". The Kick Them All Out Project. 
  4. ^ "The Battle of Athens". Illinois Gun Owners Rights. 
  5. ^ Freehling, William F. (2001). South vs. South. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 40. ISBN 0-19-513027-8. 
  6. ^ Byrum, C. Stephen (1984). McMinn County. Memphis, Tennessee: Memphis State University Press. p. 26. ISBN 0-87870-176-1. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  7. ^ Freehling, William F. (2001). South vs. South. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 60. ISBN 0-19-513027-8. 
  8. ^ Byrum, C. Stephen (1984). McMinn County. Memphis, Tennessee: Memphis State University Press. p. 30. ISBN 0-87870-176-1. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab Lones Seiber (February–March 1985). "The Battle of Athens". American Heritage. Retrieved October 15, 2007. 
  10. ^ a b c Byrum, C. Stephen (1984). McMinn County. Memphis, Tennessee: Memphis State University Press. p. 115. ISBN 0-87870-176-1. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Byrum, C. Stephen (1984). McMinn County. Memphis, Tennessee: Memphis State University Press. p. 116. ISBN 0-87870-176-1. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  12. ^ White, Bill (July 20, 2000). "An Interview with Bill White For the Veteran's Oral History Project Center for the Study of War and Society, Department of History, The University of Tennessee Knoxville" (PDF) (Interview). Interview with G. Kurt Piehler and Brandi Wilson. Athens, Tennessee. p. 25. Retrieved April 2, 2016. 
  13. ^ White, Bill (July 20, 2000). "An Interview with Bill White For the Veteran's Oral History Project Center for the Study of War and Society, Department of History, The University of Tennessee Knoxville" (PDF) (Interview). Interview with G. Kurt Piehler and Brandi Wilson. Athens, Tennessee. p. 26. Retrieved April 2, 2016. 
  14. ^ White, Bill (July 20, 2000). "An Interview with Bill White For the Veteran's Oral History Project Center for the Study of War and Society, Department of History, The University of Tennessee Knoxville" (PDF) (Interview). Interview with G. Kurt Piehler and Brandi Wilson. Athens, Tennessee. pp. 18–19. Retrieved April 2, 2016. 
  15. ^ White, Bill (July 20, 2000). "An Interview with Bill White For the Veteran's Oral History Project Center for the Study of War and Society, Department of History, The University of Tennessee Knoxville" (PDF) (Interview). Interview with G. Kurt Piehler and Brandi Wilson. Athens, Tennessee. p. 24. Retrieved April 5, 2016. 
  16. ^ a b c White, Bill (July 20, 2000). "An Interview with Bill White For the Veteran's Oral History Project Center for the Study of War and Society, Department of History, The University of Tennessee Knoxville" (PDF) (Interview). Interview with G. Kurt Piehler and Brandi Wilson. Athens, Tennessee. p. 24. Retrieved April 3, 2016. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Byrum, C. Stephen (1984). McMinn County. Memphis, Tennessee: Memphis State University Press. p. 117. ISBN 0-87870-176-1. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  18. ^ "Tennessee Veterans Are Wary Now". The New York Times. August 18, 1946. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  19. ^ a b c d e f Egerton, John (1995). Speak Now Against the Day: the Generation Before the Civil Rights Movement in the South. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 393–396. ISBN 0-8078-4557-4. 
  20. ^ a b White, Bill (July 20, 2000). "An Interview with Bill White For the Veteran's Oral History Project Center for the Study of War and Society, Department of History, The University of Tennessee Knoxville" (PDF) (Interview). Interview with G. Kurt Piehler and Brandi Wilson. Athens, Tennessee. p. 19. Retrieved April 2, 2016. 
  21. ^ Still another account had them break through a plate glass door; so perhaps all three accounts are true.
  22. ^ a b White, Bill (July 20, 2000). "An Interview with Bill White For the Veteran's Oral History Project Center for the Study of War and Society, Department of History, The University of Tennessee Knoxville" (PDF) (Interview). Interview with G. Kurt Piehler and Brandi Wilson. Athens, Tennessee. p. 20. Retrieved April 3, 2016. 
  23. ^ a b c d e f White, Bill (July 20, 2000). "An Interview with Bill White For the Veteran's Oral History Project Center for the Study of War and Society, Department of History, The University of Tennessee Knoxville" (PDF) (Interview). Interview with G. Kurt Piehler and Brandi Wilson. Athens, Tennessee. p. 21. Retrieved April 3, 2016. 
  24. ^ a b c d Brooks, Jennifer E. (December 25, 2009). "Battle of Athens". The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Retrieved December 17, 2012. 
  25. ^ a b c d e f Byrum, C. Stephen (1984). McMinn County. Memphis, Tennessee: Memphis State University Press. p. 118. ISBN 0-87870-176-1. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  26. ^ a b c d Williams, Kate. "Riots in Tennessee". Tennessee State Library and Archives. Retrieved December 17, 2012. 
  27. ^ "Tennessee Sheriff Is Slain In Primary Day Violence". The New York Times. August 2, 1946. Retrieved April 6, 2016. 
  28. ^ a b c d White, Bill (July 20, 2000). "An Interview with Bill White For the Veteran's Oral History Project Center for the Study of War and Society, Department of History, The University of Tennessee Knoxville" (PDF) (Interview). Interview with G. Kurt Piehler and Brandi Wilson. Athens, Tennessee. p. 22. Retrieved April 3, 2016. 
  29. ^ a b c d e "Armed Veterans Run Town After Tennessee Bloodshed". The New York Times. August 2, 1946. Retrieved April 3, 2016. 
  30. ^ Minus Wilburn
  31. ^ a b "Election In Tennessee". The New York Times. August 3, 1946. Retrieved April 5, 2016. 
  32. ^ Byrum, C. Stephen (1984). McMinn County. Memphis, Tennessee: Memphis State University Press. p. 119. ISBN 0-87870-176-1. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  33. ^ a b c "Town's GI Leaders Take New Officers". The New York Times. August 5, 1946. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  34. ^ "Tennessee Sheriff is Slain in Primary Day Violence". The New York Times. August 2, 1946. Retrieved April 6, 2016. 
  35. ^ a b "(M)ayorless Athens Calm in Clean-Out". The New York Times. September 8, 1946. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  36. ^ "Mayor Resigns Post in Town Won by GI's". The New York Times. September 7, 1946. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  37. ^ "GI Movement Laps at Crump Province". The New York Times. August 28, 1946. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  38. ^ a b Goulden, Joseph C. (1976). The Best Years 1945–1950. New York: Antheneum. p. 228. ISBN 0-689-10708-0. 
  39. ^ "Elected GI's Doubt Course in Athens". The New York Times. August 10, 1946. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  40. ^ "Athens, Tenn., Regime Set Up by GIs Falls". The New York Times. January 12, 1947. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 
  41. ^ "Tennesseans Act For 2-Party Rule". The New York Times. August 1, 1947. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  42. ^ "Will There Be A Crime Wave?". The New York Times. November 5, 1944. Retrieved April 7, 2016. 
  43. ^ White, Bill (July 20, 2000). "An Interview with Bill White For the Veteran's Oral History Project Center for the Study of War and Society, Department of History, The University of Tennessee Knoxville" (PDF) (Interview). Interview with G. Kurt Piehler and Brandi Wilson. Athens, Tennessee. p. 38. Retrieved April 3, 2016. 
  44. ^ "Lesson From Tennessee". The New York Times. January 16, 1947. Retrieved April 7, 2016. 
  45. ^ White, Bill (July 20, 2000). "An Interview with Bill White For the Veteran's Oral History Project Center for the Study of War and Society, Department of History, The University of Tennessee Knoxville" (PDF) (Interview). Interview with G. Kurt Piehler and Brandi Wilson. Athens, Tennessee. pp. 23–24. Retrieved April 3, 2016. 
  46. ^ Goulden, Joseph C. (1976). The Best Years 1945–1950. New York: Antheneum. p. 38. ISBN 0-689-10708-0. 
  47. ^ "An American Story". Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions. IMDb. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 

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