Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Nashville Dixie Flyers


  When I was a teenager Nashville had a minor league hockey team called the Nashville Dixie Flyers. My Aunt Didi, who raised me after my parents died, became a big fan and I started going to the games with her and her boyfriend Allen Smith. If you were a kid his nickname was "Gigs". If you were an adult his nickname was "Frog". Don't ask me why. The Flyers played at Nashville's Municipal Auditorium and they were a rough and tumble team. They reminded me of the team portrayed in the movie "Slap Shot" with Paul Newman. As I remember they were a good team and were close to the top in league standings most years. They were really tough men because they didn't wear helmets and it was a code of honor for them. From a distance they looked pretty normal but up close they were very scarred with noses that had been broken far too many times. You were lucky if you found a full set of teeth between them.

  One of their biggest rivals were the Long Island Ducks. When they came to town you knew there was going to be plenty of fights. This was because our players were usually mistreated by the Long Island  fans when they were up there. They would throw things things at our players. I will never forget the night that the Ducks and Flyers were playing. Long Island lost a very close game to Nashville. As the Duck players were walking off the ice a fan threw a wadded up paper cup and hit one of them in the head. He reared back and threw his stick into the crowd hitting a woman in the head. We headed for the exits as fans and players began slugging it out on the ice. I believe this was in April 1967. Gigs had a police scanner in his car and there was a race riot going on at TSU. I think every cop in Nashville was either at the Municipal Auditorium or in North Nashville.

Where the Dixie Flyers played in the Municipal Auditorium

Frank Sutton's Connection To Nashville

  Frank Sutton, who everyone knows as Sgt Carter on Gomer Pyle, was born in Clarksville Tennessee on October 23, 1923. At eight years old his family moved to Nashville where his father worked in the press room of the Nashville Tennessean. His father would die when Frank was fourteen. Frank attended East High School where Debbie and I graduated in 1968. He began acting at the age of nine but decided that he wanted to be an actor while in the Drama Club there. After graduation he became a radio announcer in Clarksville until he joined the Army and was involved in fourteen assault landings in the Pacific. After the war he became an actor and acted on many popular television series such as Route 66, Gunsmoke and Twilight Zone just to name a few. His biggest role was in the Academy Award winning movie Marty starring Ernest Borgnine. Then in 1964 he got his first big break as Sgt Carter on the Andy Griffith Show as Sgt Carter which soon evolved into the Gomer Pyle Show. The show was cancelled in 1969. Frank Sutton died of a heart attack while preparing to act in a dinner theater in Louisiana on June 28, 1974.

Jim Nabors and Frank Sutton

East Nashville High School

Media Bias Alert


  This is a media bias alert: The media is slobbering over the fact that Jason Collins of the NBA came out of the closet and announced that he is gay. Anytime I talk about issues involving personal morality I always like to issue a disclaimer. I am far far from being an icon of moral virtue. Lincoln said that men are like the moon. We all have our dark side that you cannot see until you get on the other side. Having said that God is not mocked, whatsoever a man soweth, so shall he reap, including me. Why is it so courageous for Collins to announce that he is gay? The media is going crazy over the fact that there is so little opposition among the media and the NBA. Maybe it is because the few that are voicing their legitimate opinions are being called homophobes and bigots. If you want to see real courage then let's see some high profile person come out and say what I am saying now.

  With the media that we have now I think Tim Tebow and other Christian athletes are much more courageous than Jason Collins. He is preaching to the choir. There are legitimate criticisms for Tim Tebow's athletic ability but if you said the things about a gay person that are said about the faith of Tim Tebow and other Christian athletes let's see how long you would keep your job. On top of that you would probably be arrested for a hate crime. I have even heard this man compared to Jackie Robinson. Really!!! If I were black I would be deeply offended at the attempt to hijack the real sacrifice of people like Robinson by the gay rights movement and the media. If a NBA player had come out of the closet in 1970 I might have agreed that it was courageous but not in 2013. I love gay people because God loves them. I don't care how you choose to have sex. You deserve no special rights because of your orientation. You can call me a bigot, a homophobe, and have me arrested but you will not silence me.

Jackie Robinson

Monday, April 29, 2013

General William B. Bate


  Confederate Major General William B. Bate was born in Castalian Springs, Sumner County Tennessee on October 7, 1826. He left home at the age of 15 and would fight in the Mexican War. Bate joined the Confederate Army and fought in numerous battles and skirmishes and suffered two serious wounds. His first major battle was 1st Bull Run. At Shiloh he had a horse shot out from under him and he was shot in the leg. When the surgeon told him that his leg would have to be amputated in order to save his life he pulled his pistol and threatened to kill the surgeon. He kept his leg but he would have a limp for the rest of his life. He fought at Hoovers Gap, Chickamauga, where he had three horses shot out from under him, Missionary Ridge, Resaca, New Hope Church, Kennesaw Mountain, Peachtree Creek, and the main battle of Atlanta. He was shot in the knee near Atlanta and after his recovery he fought at the Battle of Franklin where he lost 20% of his Division and had another horse shot out from under him. Bate commanded a Corps at the Battle of Nashville two weeks later. His last major battle was at Bentonville North Carolina where he surrendered with the Army of Tennessee to Sherman on April 26, 1865 at Durham North Carolina. After the war he practiced law in Nashville. He would eventually be elected Governor of Tennessee and would serve from 1883 until 1887. Bate would be a United States Senator from 1887 until his death on March 9, 1905. He is buried in Nashville's Mount Olivet Cemetery.

Murfreesboro Tornado Of 1913

  We all remember the Good Friday tornado that devastated Murfreesboro a few years ago but did you know about the tornado that hit the public square 100 years ago on March 21, 1913? Luckily there was nobody killed. The tornado occurred at 2:00 A.M.and seriously injured a man sleeping in a livery stable on the North side of the square on Walnut St. The tornado cut a swath of destruction 150 yards wide. Part of the clock on the Courthouse Cupola was later found in Lebanon.

Fannie Battle


  For years growing up in Nashville I passed the Fannie Battle Day Home at the top of the hill on Shelby Avenue and I never thought much about it. I did think that Fannie Battle was a funny name for a daycare center until one day I was reading about the occupation of Nashville by Union forces in the Civil War and I read about a 19 year old Confederate spy named Fannie Battle. Mary Francis Battle or "Fannie" as she was called was born in the Cane Ridge community near Lavergne in 1842. Her father Joel Allen Battle was a Confederate Captain that commanded the 20th Tennessee Infantry. The unit was made up primarily of men from the Nashville area. Her father was seriously wounded and captured at Shiloh. He was sent to the Union prison camp at Johnson's Island. Two brothers were killed at Shiloh and another brother fought at Stones River and would be wounded late in the war.

  Nashville fell to Union Forces on February 25, 1862 and was occupied until the end of the war. Military Governor Andrew Johnson dealt harshly with anyone in Nashville that he considered disloyal. Fannie was an attractive 18 year old when she became a Confederate spy in 1862 smuggling medicine and letters out of Nashville to Confederate Forces. On April 7, 1863 she, along with her future sister-in-law Harriet Booker, were arrested and sent to Camp Chase in Columbus Ohio. She would later be released in 1864. From 1870 until 1886 she taught at various local schools including Howard High School. In 1881 the Cumberland River flooded and she became concerned about the plight of poor people affected by the disaster. She helped organize United Charities and also became concerned about the plight of children left to their own devices by poor working families. Fannie rented a room and began taking care of many of these children until in 1891 she opened the first Fannie Battle Day Home which is the second oldest daycare center in the country. In 1916 the yearly tradition of Christmas caroling was begun by the center. The center is still taking care of poor inner city children in the tradition of Fannie Battle. She died in 1924 and is another of the famous local and national people buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Tennessee Central Railroad Blacksmith Shop


  The men in my family on my mother's side were mostly railroad men. Most of them worked for the Tennessee Central Railroad. I was eating in a local restaurant a few years ago and was sitting next to a man and his wife when I realized that I had seen them at a Smyrna Mexican restaurant where I was singing karaoke at the time. We struck up a conversation and I asked him what he did for a living. He told me that he was a blacksmith at Cannonsburg in Murfreesboro. I said that my grandfather had been a blacksmith for the old Tennessee Central Railroad. He said that his grandfather had also been a blacksmith for the Tennessee Central Railroad. The man wanted to show me an old picture that he had of the Tennessee Central blacksmith shop to see if I recognized anyone. It was probably a week or two later while I was at karaoke that he gave me a copy.

  My jaw dropped to the floor. I picked out my great grandfather, John Clayton Breckinridge Frogge, who was the shop foreman and the first man in the front row. He was born July 19, 1858 and would die on January 20, 1943. This was after suffering a massive heart attack at work. My Uncle Elby Morse was the 2nd man from the left on the top row. He was an Uncle by marriage because he was married to my grandmother's sister "Lizzie" Frogge Morse. The 4th man from the left on the back row was my grandfather Marcellus Fain Brown born on June 16, 1889 and died in July 1968. I can't remember the man's name who gave me this picture but his grandfather is the 3rd man on the 1st row and his uncle was was the last man on the right in the 2nd row. His uncle died in a car wreck in 1939 which means this picture was probably made in the 1920's or 1930's. What are the odds of two men meeting casually in a restaurant and out of an old picture of thirteen men the two of us could identify five of them?

Nashville's Contribution To The Struggle For Civil Rights

  Many people think that the Civil Rights movement started in 1955 with the Montgomery Bus Boycott and that it was centered primarily around Martin Luther King. If you believe that then you would be wrong on both counts. The fight for civil rights has been going on since the foundation of this country and Martin Luther King was a big part of the modern day civil rights movement but there were a host of hero's that were essential to the movement. People like Diane Nash, James Bevel, Bernard Lafayette, Marion Barry, John Lewis, James Lawson, plus many more not mentioned. Marion Barry became a very corrupt Washington DC mayor and John Lewis is a very leftist Georgia Congressman. Many of the people involved in the fight for civil rights are on the wrong side of the political tracks today but I admire courage. I admire the length's that they went to just to have the right to do what every American takes for granted today. The right to eat in a restaurant, to go to a swimming pool, to go to the zoo, sit anywhere they wanted on a city bus. Go to a good school and to walk into a voting booth and vote.

  One of the things that I am most proud of is how my parents raised me during this period. I was taught to respect everyone. My dad owned a Drugstore at 17th and Charlotte and a partnership pharmacy called Segroves-Kelly Drugstore at 12th and Jefferson which were in predominately black areas of town. We could see the effect of segregation firsthand. There were shacks with outdoor toilets behind my father's store on Charlotte and they were right below the State Capital building. Today I think about going Christmas shopping with my mother and we would hit all of the department stores like Harvey's, Cain-Sloan, Castner-Knott, W.T Grant's, and Woolworth's. We would shop all day and the highlight of the day was sitting down at a store's diner for a hamburger and french fries. I never thought about it then but black kid's my age couldn't look forward to that like I did. Their parents were allowed to spend their hard earned money in the stores but they couldn't sit down to rest and eat a meal.

  Predominately black schools like Fisk University, the American Bible College, and Tennessee A&I, which is Tennessee State University today were just a few miles from my dad's stores. James Lawson, a Vanderbilt Divinity student, conducted seminars on non-violence during the late 1950's that were directed toward teaching black and white students. They were from these local schools and were taught the non-violent philosophies of Jesus, Thoreau, and Ghandi. The goal of this training was teach the students to endure beatings and verbal abuse in order to achieve desegregation. Their first target was the desegregation of the downtown lunch counters. In February 1960 they began sitting down at Nashville lunch counters to be served. At first the stores were caught off guard and they didn't quite know how to react. Then white hooligans began showing up to spit on the demonstrators, taunt them, and beat them. Nashville police arrested the students rather than the troublemakers. This went on through May when the house of a popular black lawyer, Alexander Looby, was bombed.

  Thousands of black and white students marched all the way from North Nashville to the public square to confront Mayor Ben West. There Diane Nash, who was fearless, asked the mayor point blank if he thought the segregation of Nashville lunch counters was moral. The mayor, to his credit, answered no. The Nashville lunch counters were desegregated shortly thereafter. Nashville, besides possibly Atlanta, was considered the most moderate city in the South. It was targeted because it was thought that a victory in Nashville would go a long way toward desegregating other Southern cities. The Nashville students went on to save the Freedom Rides that were started by James Farmer of CORE, The Klan caught up with a Greyhound bus in Anniston Alabama where they burned the bus and came close to burning the passengers alive but for an undercover Alabama Highway Patrolman that was riding on the bus. The CORE riders abandoned the Freedom Rides and were replaced by the Nashville students. The Nashville students went on to participate in the March on Washington, Mississippi Freedom Summer, the 1963 Birmingham's Children's Crusade, the 1965 Selma March for voting rights, and the 1966 Chicago Open House Movement. They became the backbone of the modern Civil Rights Movement and were instrumental in keeping the pressure on Washington politicians which produced the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Harvey's Diner
Diane Nash with student protestors

Insecticide being sprayed on John Lewis and another student protestor

M. L. King addressing a mass church rally

Students being arrested

Whites beating and shouting at a student protestor

Student Arrest / Nashville Sit-In's

Nashville Sit-In's Demonstration
The march to the Nashville court house

Diane Nash Confronting Mayor West

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Grant's Resolve - Shiloh - April 6th And 7th 1862

The Hornets Nest Today

  The battle of Shiloh was fought on April 6th and 7th 1862. There were over 23,000 casualties, 13,000 Union and 10,000 confederate. It is one of my favorite battlefields to visit. Shiloh is one of the oldest and largest battlefields as far as acreage owned by the National Park Service. The area around it is still undeveloped unlike Stones River. There are 1152 acres owned by the Park service. You can still see where the battle started around Shiloh Church. The Hornet's Nest where W.H.L. Wallace held off the Confederate Army long enough for Grant to mount a last line of defense. It was called the Hornets Nest because of the sound that the bullets made whizzing through the air. The Peach Orchard where the leaves looked like snow falling to the ground after being clipped by bullets. The place where Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston bled to death from an arterial wound in his leg. Bloody Pond where it was supposedly pink from the men washing their wounds, and being full of dead horses and men. The Confederate mass graves where in at least one it is said that 700 men are stacked seven deep. Five of these mass graves are marked but it is believed that between eleven or twelve are there. 

  Ulysses S. Grant is one of my favorite people. There were only four things in life that he was good at. He was a great husband and father, a great horseman, and a great general. In everything else he was a failure. He is considered one of the worst presidents in history. Shiloh was a turning point for Grant and the nation. He was coming off of a great victory at Ft. Donelson but was surprised at Shiloh and was able to hold on by the skin of his teeth. After Shiloh he was pushed to the side and superseded by General Henry Halleck , but would eventually regain his command. The old charges of being a drunk plagued him. Yet Shiloh convinced Grant that the only way the South was going to be defeated was through total war. The focus would not only be on the Southern armies but the Southern people. This was the beginning of the modern concept of war. Prior to Shiloh Grant thought that the South was on it's last leg and one final decisive battle would finish them. There had only been two major battles so far and they were a walk in the park compared to Shiloh. Grant was one of the few Union Generals to realize that the war was going to be a long drawn out bloody process and in that sense the beginning of the end was at Shiloh.
Ulysses S. Grant

Albert Sidney Johnston

Shiloh Church
Tennessee Monument At Shiloh

Bloody Pond

Confederate Burial Trench
Confederate Burial Trench At Shiloh

Unknown Ceremony

  My father owned three drugstores during the 1950's in North Nashville. One was at 9th & Cheatham, which he did not own very long. The second was a partnership with an old Army buddy called Segroves-Kelly Pharmacy at 12th and Jefferson and the last was Segroves Pharmacy at 17th & Charlotte. This picture is of some kind of ceremony taking place in front of his store on Charlotte. I have always been intrigued by this picture because there is no writing on the back explaining who these people are or what they were doing. My father was the 5th from the left in the black coat and light hat. Nashville Mayor Ben West is the man pointing up toward the pole in the center.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The "McMinn County War


  The battle of Athens Tennessee or the "McMinn County War" is a testimony to why we have the Second Amendment. Jefferson said that " from time to time the tree of liberty must be watered by the blood of patriots and tyrants". Paul Cantrell came from a Democratic family of money. In 1936 he decided to run for Sheriff and closely identified his campaign with the Administration of Franklin Roosevelt. He was elected in 1936, 38, and 40. Cantrell was elected to the State Senate in 1942 and 44. His former deputy Pat Mansfield was elected Sheriff in his place. For years Cantrell and Mansfield worked under a corrupt fee system whereby they received money for every person they booked, incarcerated and released. The more arrests they made, the more money they made. They would even stop buses traveling through the county and falsely arrest passengers for public drunkenness. The Cantrell machine also ran illegal gambling houses.

  They were investigated by the U.S. Justice Department in 1940, 42, and 44. In August 1946 Cantrell ran for Sheriff again. This time there were 3,000 combat veterans who had returned from the war living in McMinn County. They made up 10% of the county's population. The Sheriff Department had been targeting many of these veterans for arrest and harassment. The veterans decided to run their own non-partisan candidate for Sheriff. They called themselves the G.I. Non-Partisan League. Combat veteran Knox Henry was the reform candidate running against Cantrell. One veteran said "The principles that we fought for in this past war do not exist in McMinn County". The polls opened on August 1, 1946.

  Two hundred armed deputies were called in to patrol a county which normally fielded fifteen. A black man was assaulted and shot in the back by deputies after casting his vote. When the polls closed deputies seized the ballot boxes and took them to the jail. Possibly as many as 2,000 armed citizens and veterans surrounded the jail. It was barricaded by 55 deputies. Many of the protesters broke in to the National Guard Armory and obtained arms. A gun battle lasting several hours ensued and finally the door to the jail was dynamited and breached. The deputies surrendered themselves and the ballot boxes. The ballot count showed that Knox Henry and other reform candidates had won. This is a great example of the dual purpose of the 2nd Amendment. It is not only designed to protect the individual but to give citizens the means to alter or abolish a corrupt and tyrannical government.

Busting Up Illegal Cantrell Gambling Establishments