Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Chapter Review: The Battle of Athens: Repeated Petitions, Repeated Injuries

Taken from Miracles and Massacres: True and Untold Stories of the Making of America, by Glenn Beck with Kevin Balfe and Hannah Beck, Theshold Editions, New York, 2013.

This is a story that you find hard to believe could happen in the United States, however it is a story of conditions right after WWII that faced some of the returning GI's.  Many areas of the country have political bosses, and such was the case here.  Athens, Tennessee was a rural town.  It had the same Sheriff, Paul Cantrell, for many years.  They insisted on counting the ballots in private, and turned out he always won.  This only changed when he took higher office, but then he placed puppets in his place, using the same routine.  Sheri was paid for how many stayed in jail, so the trumped up the numbers by arresting people for nothing, and beating them if they didn't cooperate.  Some of the local citizens, lead by the retuning GI's who had been the victims of these assaults, decided enough was enough.  The easily had triple the votes of the corrupt Sheriff, who had returned to run again because many were displeased with his replacement.  Only through some shenanigans could the Sheriff win.
They brought in men to intimidate the polls, and even shot a Black man.  However the key as to sneak enough ballots away and count them out of sight.  They did this in the jail.
Bill White had warned to state government and the FBI of the situation in Athens before the election.  However there was no response.  When the Sheriff had taken ballots to count in secret,  action was needed.  They confronted the men in the jail, asking for the ballots.  They were greeted with a couple shot gun blasts.  The battle and siege was on.  The people could rearm themselves, and did so by visiting the local stores.  They men in the jail had no such opportunity.  People were wounded on both sides, but no one died.  However eventually the governor or the National Guard would come to rescue the Sheriff.  Something had to be done.  Bill White had brought dynamite.  It wasn't until the third throw that he got one close enough to take the front off the jail.  The ballots would be counted fairly.  The only person tried as a result of this day was the police man who shot another man keeping him from the ballot box.

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