Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Man’s Best Friend

“I am almost tempted to say that if you will show me a man’s dog I will tell you what manner of man the owner is, with particular reference to temperament and his moods.” -- The Camden [Tenn.] Chronicle, October 3, 1902

Over the years, dogs have played many different parts in the lives of humans: protector, hunter, herder, guide, etc. But perhaps the dog’s most important role is that of companion. Long before Prussia's Frederick II coined the phrase “man’s best friend,” dogs lived in harmony with humankind and provided love and camaraderie.

A "future fox hunter," (little boy) at the Crossville Fox Hound bench show, Cumberland County, Tennessee, April 3, 1948, Department of Conservation Photograph Collection.

Tennessee has a rich animal history since critters go hand in hand with agriculture. While many dogs in the state are bred to hunt, others are raised to be herding dogs that can assist in moving livestock from one place to another and keeping young animals within groups and out of trouble. Many farm dogs also serve as animated scarecrows that protect crops from creatures that might otherwise eat up a farmer’s livelihood.


William Jackson Elliston and William Harding Jackson, Jr. as children, with Pickett the dog, Nashville, Tennessee, undated, Library Photograph Collection.


Mrs. H.C. Reynolds and daughter, Corley, are making their first garden preparations for the Home Food Supply Program while their dog, Sport, looks on, DeKalb County, Tennessee, Department of Conservation Photograph Collection.


While some dogs work in the fields, others have been employed at more amusing tasks. A flyer advertising “Skipper the Wonder Dog” is included in the Phillip Van Horn Weems Papers at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. (Weems was Skipper’s owner.) Skipper had been trained by Wilson Garey and was billed as “The Dog with Human Intelligence.” According to the circular, Skipper knew more than 20 tricks and, among other things, could count, pretend to be lame, and pray. Weems is quoted as saying that Skipper was “the son of a vicious roving German Shepherd” and that he “never fails to thrill an audience.”

A Labrador Retriever, "Chief Draughon," jumping in the water, Davidson County, Tennessee, October 23, 1952, Department of Conservation Photograph Collection.

Borden C. Jones teaching his dog how to aquaplane on Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee, June 8, 1946, Department of Conservation Photograph Collection.


Entertainment and farming are not the only things dogs have notably been used for in Tennessee. The Volunteer State was also home to the first “seeing eye dog,” Buddy. Morris Frank (1908-1980) was a Nashville native who attended Montgomery Bell Academy and later Vanderbilt University. By the age of 16, Frank was totally blind as the result of two separate accidents. In 1927, Frank read an article by Dorothy Harrison Eustis and contacted her regarding the possibility of receiving a guide dog. Eustis was an American living in Switzerland who trained dogs. Most of the animals Eustis trained were employed as guides for emergency personnel, police, and military personnel. Even though Eustis had no experience training dogs to guide the blind, she invited Frank to come to Switzerland, promising to help him locate an appropriate trainer and dog. Frank was paired with a female German Shepherd (originally named “Kiss”) whom he re-named Buddy. The partnership was a success and Frank, guided by Buddy, soon became a common sight to anyone frequenting downtown Nashville.

Wanting all visually impaired individuals to be able to have the freedom and independence he had with Buddy, Frank established a nonprofit corporation, The Seeing Eye, Inc., to train guide dogs for blind men and women. While Frank started The Seeing Eye at his home in Nashville, it soon moved to New Jersey, where the organization continues to operate to this day. During his lifetime, Frank advocated that service dogs be allowed to accompany their owners in any public place and challenged many of the “no dogs allowed” policies that were common at the time.

Morris Frank returning to Nashville from Vevey, Switzerland, with his guide dog, Buddy, New York, New York, June 12, 1928, Archives Photographs Collection.

Buddy, Morris Frank's Seeing Eye dog, December 1937, Library Photograph Collection.



Dogs have even been used as a source of revenue for the state. In 1875, the Tennessee state legislature passed a bill (HB 438) to create a “dog tax.” This act required every “owner or harborer of a dog or dogs” to pay $1 per each dog owned with the exception of unspayed female dogs, which the owners paid $5 to keep. Spayed female dogs were taxed at the same rate as all other dogs ($1). Rep. Robert P. Cole (representing Henry, Carroll, Gibson, and Weakley counties) was one of the many state House of Representatives members who voted for the bill. His constituents were so outraged about the new law that Rep. Cole tried to hide his 'yes' vote. The Camden Chronicle (September 2, 1892) reported: “Mr. Cole voted for this dog law and when he went home and found how mad his constituents were about it, he tried to deny his vote, and they could not fix it down on him until the Journal containing his vote came out.” Since $1 in 1875 would be approximately $22 today, this was a fairly significant tax. Consequently, people could not afford to keep many dogs during the time that this “privilege tax” existed.

Mrs. Polk Chapleau and her champion fox hounds, March 30, 1941, Department of Conservation Photograph Collection.


Dogs have been an asset to the people of Tennessee in many ways over the years. But, no matter what other roles dogs may fill in our lives, they are first and foremost our friends. Perhaps a quote from Voltaire in his 1764 Dictionnaire philosophique sums it up best: “It seems that nature has given the dog to man for his defense and for his pleasure. Of all the animals it is the most faithful: it is the best friend man can have.”

Jack and Bill fishing in Cherokee Lake, Tennessee, May 16, 1946, Department of Conservation Photograph Collection.


To view more historic images of Tennessee dogs, please see TSLA’s online photograph database:  http://tnsos.org/tsla/imagesearch/index.php?find=dog

For more information on “Skipper the Wonder Dog,” take a look at the Phillip Van Horn Weems Papers: http://www.tn.gov/tsla/history/manuscripts/findingaids/68-207.pdf at TSLA.

For more information on Morris Frank and Buddy, including Braille resources, contact the Tennessee Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (tlbph.tsla@tn.gov). The Tennessee Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (TLBPH) is a free library program of more than 50,000 recorded, large print, and braille materials available to residents of Tennessee who are not able to use standard print materials due to visual or physical disabilities. The TLBPH partners with the National Library Service at the Library of Congress (NLS) to administer this free library service. Check out the TLBPH link here: http://sos.tn.gov/products/tsla/library-blind-and-physically-handicapped


The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Using TSLA Resources to Turn Small Clues into Big Discoveries

Every genealogical research project has to start somewhere, whether it’s a Google search of an ancestor’s name or an old family photograph unearthed from the attic. In this next installment of the Tennessee State Library and Archives free workshop series, veteran genealogist Jim Long will use case studies to demonstrate how even small bits of information can lead to important discoveries found among TSLA’s collection of resources.

Mr. Long, president of the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society, will use real-life examples of how he utilized TSLA resources in his research. His lecture will touch on the information that can be found in old newspapers, deed books, land records and legislative petitions to learn more about long lost ancestors. He will also describe how photographs can provide clues that can assist in research. And he will provide tips on how to search through county records and use the Tennessee Archives Directory as a resource.

Mr. Long is a lifetime member of the Montgomery County Historical Society and a volunteer at the Stewart County Archives. He has studied genealogy for more than 35 years and has published nine books on Stewart County genealogical records. He also maintains the websites for the Tennessee State Library and Archives Friends, the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society and the TNGenWeb sites for Stewart and Montgomery counties.

The workshop takes place on Saturday, Sept. 26th from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Although this workshop is free and open to the public, reservations are required due to limited seating in the auditorium. To make a reservation, visit:




Parking is available around the Tennessee State Library and Archives building.

For more information, call (615) 741-2764 or e-mail workshop.tsla@tn.gov.

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

Monday, August 24, 2015

95th Anniversary of the Certification of Tennessee's Ratification of the 19th Amendment

95 years ago today, Governor Albert H. Roberts certified Tennessee’s ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Roberts had called a special session of the General Assembly to consider ratification on Aug. 9 of that year. At that time, 35 states had ratified the 19th Amendment, eight had rejected it, and five had not yet voted. Tennessee provided the 36th and final state needed to ratify this landmark amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Women's Suffrage Ratification in the Tennessee Senate Chamber, 1920, Library Collection. This photograph from the "Ratification Issue" of the Nashville Tennessean, Sunday morning, August 29, 1920, depicts the Senate chamber at the moment that the clerk counted the historic vote on women's suffrage.


State and national pro- and anti-suffrage leaders descended on Nashville for an intense summer of lobbying in Nashville. Anti-suffragists wore red roses, and suffragists wore yellow roses during the "War of the Roses." State legislators proclaimed their allegiance to by the color of the roses on their lapels. On Aug. 18, after a motion to table the vote ended in a tie, a roll call vote on ratification followed. Young Rep. Harry T. Burn of Niota quietly changed his vote to "aye" following the adivce of his mother, Febb Burn, who had sent him a letter (linked below) urging him to vote in support of ratification. The Tennessee state legislature voted to approve the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting women the right to vote. Anti-suffragists did not give up, and worked to rescind the ratification vote. Some anti-suffrage legislators even fled the state to leave the General Assembly short of a quorum, but their efforts failed. Governor Roberts signed Tennessee's ratification of the 19th Amendment, and sent it to Washington. On August 26, 1920, U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby issued a proclamation that declared the amendment ratified.

Please!, 1920, Carrie Chapman Catt Papers. A young suffragist implores the Tennessee General Assembly to support ratification of the 19th Amendment.


Anti-suffragists believed that women should remain free and unsullied by the strife of politics, and exert their influence in their homes and with their children for the betterment of society. The anti-suffrage movement had dedicated, earnest leaders from Tennessee. Among them was Josephine A. Pearson of Monteagle, the president of the Tennessee Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage and the Southern Women's League for the Rejection of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment, which produced the anti-suffrage piece below.

America When Feminized, n.d., Josephine A. Pearson Papers. A mother hen walks out on her eggs leaving the rooster to set them. According to this broadside, giving women the right to vote would make men “sissies” and doom civilization.


Tennessee women played a vital role in the rallying votes for the 19th Amendment. Ann Dallas Dudley of Nashville, Sue Shelton White of Jackson, Lizzie Crozier French of Knoxville, and Abby Crawford Milton of Chattanooga were among many who worked for years to gain popular and legislative support for women’s suffrage. On October 27 of this year, a new woman suffrage monument will be dedicated in Nashville to honor the women who fought for the right to vote. http://tnsuffragemonument.org/.

Ann Dallas Dudley with her children, n.d., Library Photograph Collection


Learn more about Tennessee’s role as the "Perfect 36" in the passage of the 19th Amendment, and see more images from our collections, in our online exhibit, “Remember the Ladies": Women Struggle for an Equal Voice: http://www.tn.gov/tsla/exhibits/suffrage/index.htm. See also "Woman Suffrage Movement" in the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture: http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entry.php?rec=1528.

Tennessee certificate of ratification of the 19th Amendment, August 24, 1920. National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the U. S. House of Representatives. http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/treasures_of_congress/Images/page_18/58a.html.

Febb Burn letter to her son Harry, encouraging him to vote for ratification of the 19th Amendment. C.M. McClung Historical Collection, Knox County Public Library. http://cmdc.knoxlib.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p265301coll8/id/699/rec/8 See page 6.


The collections of the Tennessee State Library and Archives provide a fascinating glimpse into the fight for women’s suffrage.

  • Carrie Chapman Catt Papers, 1916-1921: http://www.tn.gov/tsla/history/manuscripts/findingaids/72-119.pdf The Catt Papers represent TSLA’s principal collection of pro-suffrage materials. They contain correspondence (especially telegrams) from women’s clubs and national figures, newspaper clippings, and a major selection of political cartoons. Catt’s leadership was a key factor in Tennessee becoming “The Perfect 36,” the last state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment. Students of women’s history will find these papers essential for their studies. Microfilm 1077

  • Josephine A. Pearson Papers, 1860-1943: http://www.tn.gov/tsla/history/manuscripts/findingaids/74-099.pdf Pearson’s anti-suffrage papers provide balance to Catt’s. Miss Pearson, a Tennessee native, lobbied vigorously against the amendment that would give American women the right to vote. Miss Pearson’s leadership was critical to the cause, and the Tennessee General Assembly ratified the 19th Amendment by only one vote. For the anti-suffrage point of view these papers are invaluable. Microfilm 1078

  • Bettie Mizell Donelson Papers, 1787-1938: http://www.tn.gov/tsla/history/manuscripts/findingaids/309.pdf The Ladies’ Hermitage Association (LHA) is well represented here with six volumes of scrapbooks. One volume deals with suffrage and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), causes in which Bettie was active. Two scrapbooks chronicle the assassination of Bettie’s husband, William Alexander Donelson, in 1900. The LHA items are of importance to those interested in the evolution of The Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson, as a national historic site. The suffrage-WCTU volumes will be of significance to anyone seeking to learn about women’s rights and Prohibition. Microfilm 804

  • Sadie Warner Frazer Papers, 1894-1974; and Addition, 1941-1986: http://www.tn.gov/tsla/history/manuscripts/findingaids/83-040.pdf This vast collection contains over 8,000 items related to a prominent Nashville family and its kin. For the researcher seeking information on late nineteenth and early twentieth century upper class society, these papers are a windfall. Sadie’s reminiscences are of special note. There is some interesting military history here as well, particularly involving the Second Armored Division, 1941-1945. Microfilm 1190
 

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Second Only to Elvis: David Crockett of Tennessee

Storyteller, frontiersman, congressman, soldier, scout, “King of the Wild Frontier,” and “The Lion of the West" David “Davy” Crockett was born on this date in 1786 in Greene County.

Portrait of David Crockett (1786-1836) painted by S.S. Osgood. Portrait from waist up. He wears a dark suit, vest and necktie with a white collar that meets his jawline. Sideburns facial hair. Writing at bottom with signature and inscription: I am happy to acknowledge this to be the only correct likeness that has been taken of me.
Image: Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA)


Although not “born on a mountain top” as a famous song about him alleges, he was born near the mountains in the Nolichucky River Valley. His father was a local magistrate and tavern keeper. The tavern experience possibly ingrained in young Crockett the importance and power of storytelling and lighted a flame of adventure. As a young boy, he ran away from home for nearly 30 months, returning home in 1802. He married “Polly” Finley in Jefferson County in 1806.

Like so many Tennesseans of his era, Crockett decided to push south and westward, settling in Lincoln County in 1811. The attack on Fort Mims and the outbreak of the Creek War in August 1813 occurred while Crockett was living in Franklin County. Word of the massacre spread quickly and Crockett, along with thousands of other enraged Tennesseans answered the call to put down the Red Stick threat. Crockett wrote in his autobiography: “For when I heard of the mischief which was done at the fort, I instantly felt like going, and I had none of the dread of dying that I expected to feel.”

Assigned to General John Coffee, he served as a scout and often reconnoitered miles beyond the regular troops. He apparently only fought in one pitched battle, at Tallushatchee in November 1813.

"Battle of Tallushatchee" - General John Coffee led mounted Tennesseans to their first victory over the Red Sticks at Tallushatchee, Alabama, on November 3, 1813.
Image: Answering the Call: Tennesseans in the War of 1812.


After the conclusion of the Creek War, Crockett returned to Franklin County. His wife, Polly, died there, and he went through a time of financial hardship. He soon remarried, and with his second wife, Elizabeth, decided to relocate, this time to Lawrenceburg. Although operating a mill and holding several local offices, Crockett was noted for his long absences from home on extended hunting expeditions. Nevertheless, he was affable and rode the wave of the rise of the common man to win election to the Tennessee General Assembly, serving two terms.

By 1825, he moved to Gibson County and ran for the U.S. House of Representatives. He lost that election, but two years later defeated two other opponents and took his seat in Congress in 1827.

The presidential election of 1828 saw fellow Tennessean Andrew Jackson elected to the White House. Increasingly, Crockett distanced himself from the Jackson administration. Crockett stood alone among the Tennessee delegation in his opposition to the Indian Removal Act and viewed many of Jackson’s policies as being detrimental to the poor and middle class.

While in Congress, Crockett received national notoriety as a frontiersman and storyteller and served as the model for the lead character in the popular play, "The Lion of the West." which gave birth to the mythology surrounding him. The play’s popularity prompted the publishing of two books detailing the life and adventures of Colonel David Crockett. These were followed by several almanacs and books with Crockett as the hero that were more fiction than fact.

The Crockett Almanac, 1839, Library Special Collection. The Crockett Almanac was a wildly popular magazine mass-produced between 1835 and 1856. Most of the papers were published AFTER 1836, the year of Crockett’s death during the Texas War for Independence.
Image: Tennessee Myths and Legends exhibit.


The Crockett legend grew - yet was not influential enough to prevent his reelection defeat in 1831. Two years later, his popularity revived and the voters sent him back to Washington. In 1833, Crockett once again found himself in Congress.

Crockett found sympathetic allies amongst the Whig Party who hoped to capitalize on his popularity. Unofficially he was discussed as a viable anti-Jackson candidate for the presidential election of 1836 and even toured the eastern states to garner support.

Unfortunately for Crockett, his opposition to Jackson and his affiliation with the Whigs did not sit well with his constituents back in Gibson County and he lost his reelection bid to Adam Huntsman. Prompted by his defeat, Crockett told a constituent, “You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.”

Crockett and a small party of friends departed for Texas in November 1835. They arrived in the middle of an open revolution against the Mexican government. The Tennesseans found themselves near San Antonio de Béxar in February 1836 just as the Mexican army under President and General Antonio López de Santa Anna arrived. The Texans fell back into the Alamo for defense. Crockett rose to the occasion and kept the morale of the defenders as high as possible under the circumstances. However, most of the defenders died in the final Mexican assault.

How Crockett died has also become part of the myth. He is often portrayed as going down swinging and fighting to the last. In reality, Crockett probably was among a handful taken as prisoners and executed at Santa Anna’s orders.

Nationally known in his own day, ironically the zenith of Crockett’s notoriety came nearly 168 years after his death. Indeed, thanks to Walt Disney’s television series and two feature films, a coon skinned cap festooned character only slightly reflecting the real man made Davy Crockett perhaps the most recognizable Tennessean among Americans, especially elementary school aged boys. Thousands showed up to witness the mythical hero portrayed by Fess Parker as filming took place in Nashville in 1955. Throughout the nation in the 1950s and early 1960s, the only more recognizable Tennessean may have been Elvis Presley.

Fess Parker with the Clement family, 1954, Frank Goad Clement Papers. Fess Parker, star of Disney’s Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier, outdoors at the Executive Residence posing with Gov. Frank G. Clement and his young family. Parker holds a replica of Davy’s signature coonskin cap.
Image: Tennessee Myths and Legends exhibit.


So, why nearly 230 years after his birth does he remain among the most famous Tennesseans? Well, it probably has to do with the fact that so many people find something within Crockett to which they can relate. He was a common man who, thanks to history and mythology, was amazingly heroic. With little formal education he rose to national prominence and, faced with almost certain death, he chose to fight. He struggled with making ends meet like so many of the working class and he preferred to be off hunting, fishing, or on an adventure rather than working. Who wouldn’t want to go down fighting like the Davy of legend?

Visit the Davy Crockett page in our online exhibit “Tennessee Myths and Legends”: http://www.tn.gov/tsla/exhibits/myth/davycrockett.htm to see other images from our collection and learn more about this Tennessee legend.

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

Friday, August 7, 2015

There's More Than One Way to Find an African-American Ancestor

Searching for information about African-American ancestors? Maybe you've looked through TSLA’s numerous collections and research guides concerning African-American resources, but you haven't found anything yet about your family members. You're starting to think that there isn’t anything here for you, but don’t give up! We have some helpful hints.

Portrait of Matilda Franklin, c. 1860s


Let’s use Matilda Franklin (c. 1828 – 1878) as an example. Matilda has two formal portraits and an obituary in our photo database, but other than what is written on the back of the photos and the obituary, we don’t know much about her. The images tell us that she was a former slave and servant of Martha Armfield. The obituary tells us what Matilda did near the end of her life, but nothing before the Civil War.

Portrait of Matilda Franklin and Frank H. Sanderson, c. 1866. Federal census records indicated that Frank H. Sanderson (born c. 1853) was the son of John F. Sanderson (the husband of Martha Armfield’s niece).


If you’ve had no luck with TSLA’s African American resources and your ancestor was a former slave, it may be time to start looking more closely at the family he or she served. For example, Isaac Franklin was Martha Armfield’s uncle from Sumner County. In discovering that her family was from Sumner County, we now have a place to look for records about Matilda.

Matilda Franklin’s obituary, printed March 3, 1878 in the Daily American.


Once you have identified the home of the slave-owning family, there are few places you can look. For Sumner County, we found Matilda listed in:

  • Register of Deeds – Matilda and several other slaves are listed in two deeds of trust and two deeds of requisition. The first of these was in in 1849, where she was listed at the approximate age of 21. Information about her age stayed consistent through the last deed in 1854. The first and second deeds were between John Armfield, Alexander Hanner (trustee), and John F. Sanderson (the husband of Martha Armfield’s niece). The third and fourth deeds were between Armfield, Albert C. Hanner (trustee), and John F. Cage.
  • Probate Records – Matilda, along with 98 other slaves, was listed in the estate of John Franklin (Martha Armfield’s father). In the 1834 estate, Matilda is listed at the approximate age of eight and the names and ages of her six siblings and parents are listed as well.
  • Circuit Court Minutes – Matilda is listed twice more in the estate of John Franklin. In one of these instances, the 99 slaves are listed with their sale prices. Matilda, at the approximate age of eight, is valued at $200.

These are just a few of the county records that you can search. You can also look at federal and special census records, family papers, and in newspapers. You never know what you might find!

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

James Earl Ray Inmate Records Now Available to Researchers

He committed one of the most infamous assassinations of the 20th Century, killing the beloved leader of a civil rights movement that had a momentous impact on race relations in America. Now records from the assassin's life in prison following his capture are available for researchers who visit the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

On April 4, 1968, James Earl Ray murdered Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis. After a few weeks on the run, he was captured and returned to Memphis. After pleading guilty to murder, he was sentenced to 99 years in prison and was incarcerated at Brushy Mountain Penitentiary in Morgan County. He spent the rest of his life behind bars at Brushy Mountain and later at the Tennessee State Penitentiary and at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, both in Nashville.

Some of Ray's mug shots. These are most likely the images mentioned in a March 20, 1969, memorandum from Harry S. Avery, Commissioner of the Department of Correction. Avery ordered the mug shots retaken because "I think the subject has literally tried to camouflage his looks by closing his eyes." [Box 2, Folder 11]


Ray's prison records were transferred by the Department of Correction to TSLA after his death in 1998. The records had, for the most part, no organizational structure other than a very loose chronological order. In order to make the records useful to researchers, Archivist Will Thomas recently sorted the material by document type and completed a detailed inventory - or finding aid - describing the collection.

Processing RG 341. The large stack of documents on the left is some of the unsorted material received from the Dept. of Correction (after half of the stack had been sorted already!). The folders stacked everywhere contain the sorted documents.


Access to some of the material (mostly medical) is restricted by state law, but the majority of the collection is open for research. The largest portion of documents within the unrestricted material consists of Ray's disciplinary records. These records span the years 1971-1991 (although there are no records for 1976), and they document the various rule violations he committed while in prison. These infractions ran the gamut from the relatively minor, such as dumping food and garbage on the floor in front of his cell, to more serious violations, such as setting property on fire and attempting to escape. Among the other prison records are fingerprint cards and mug shots. The records also contain release forms signed by Ray granting interviews with the media, including release forms for Inside Edition, Hard Copy, Morton Downey, Jr., and Geraldo Rivera.

Western Union telegram to the warden of the Tennessee State Penitentiary protesting Ray's innocence in the assassination of Martin Luther King. NOTE: Ray was incarcerated at Brushy Mountain Penitentiary, not the State Penitentiary, at the time the telegram was sent. [Box 1, Folder 3]

A portion of James Earl Ray's criminal record from the FBI. [Box 2, Folder 7]

Records related to Ray's 1977 escape from Brushy Mountain Penitentiary. [Box 3, Folder 2]

Polaroids of the dummies used by Ray in his 1979 escape attempt from Brushy Mountain Penitentiary. [Box 3, Folder 2]



Interested researchers are invited to view a link to the finding aid found here:

http://www.tn.gov/tsla/history/state/recordgroups/findingaids/rg341.pdf

For information on how to access to this material, please contact TSLA's Public Services Section Reference Desk at Reference.TSLA@tn.gov or phone (615) 741-2764.


The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Another War for Tennessee's Returning World War II Veterans

It sounds like the plot of a summer action movie: A group of war heroes return from the battlefield to find their idyllic rural community overrun with corruption. After being thwarted in their efforts to peacefully bring about change through the democratic process, they take up arms again and successfully lead a violent revolt against the government on U.S. soil.

It may sound far fetched, but it really isn't: That's what happened on Aug. 1, 1946 during the so-called "McMinn County War," which is also called the "Battle of Athens." Soldiers who had returned to McMinn County after World War II were fed up with what they perceived to be machine-style corruption there, led by political boss Paul Cantrell. When Cantrell ran for election as sheriff in 1946, he was opposed by former GI Knox Henry. Several of Henry's allies ran against Cantrell loyalists for other races on the ballot.


Three ex-servicemen firing at the jail
Athens, Tennessee, 1946
Archives Photograph Collection


About 200 of Cantrell's armed deputies watched the polls on election day, intimidating and in some cases beating people they suspected would vote for the GI slate of candidates. After the polls closed, the deputies spirited the ballot box away to the county jail in Athens. Suspecting voter fraud, the GIs took weapons from the local armory and began firing on the jail. The deputies surrendered to the GIs early the next morning when the GIs began lobbing dynamite at the jail.

Crowd gathered at the jail,
Athens, Tennessee, 1946
Archives Photograph Collection


A governing council was established and a special police force was empaneled to keep order in the community. After the GI candidates were certified as victors in the election, they adopted a number of anti-corruption reforms, including the removal of an incentive system that rewarded deputies based on the number of people they arrested.

H.E. Gunther looking over a pile of smashed slot machines and punch boards which were confiscated by ex-GI forces during raids on gambling houses in Athens, following election mob violence the previous week.
Athens, Tennessee, 1946
Archives Photograph Collection


To learn more about the McMinn County War and other disastrous events in Tennessee's history, visit http://sos.tn.gov/products/tsla/disasters-tennessee.
 

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.