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


  1. Never knew this story. What a great example of patriotism! Thanks.

  2. I saw a film about this dark, yet victorious episode in Tennessee's history. I can't remember for sure, but I think it was on public television.