Have you ever heard of the Battle of Athens, readers? This is not a reference to the city in Greece, but the town in Tennessee, U.S.A. It occurred not long after World War II, when the GIs returning home from the front found the corruption in the local government had worsened while they had been away saving the world.
Things got rather heated, but in the end, the GIs won. Their victory was relatively short-lived, according to the article, but their courage echoes down to the present. Hallmark actually made a movie titled The Battle of Athens*, which I have yet to see but intend to view at some point.
Learn more about this forgotten event in history, readers:
The Battle Of Athens – When WWII Veterans stood up to the corrupt Local Government in Tennessee
Dec 20, 2017 Nikola Budanovic
In 1946, the small town of Athens, Tennessee, became a battleground. A siege was laid on the town jail by a crowd mostly consisting of WWII veterans who decided to take justice into their own hands, as their local politics was plagued by corruption, police brutality and electoral fraud.
The political turmoil had been present before WWII. An influential political figure from Memphis, Edward Hull “Boss” Crump, appointed Paul Cantrell as the candidate for Sheriff in 1936. Cantrell won the election in what became known as the “vote grab of 1936”.
From that point on a system of fees was introduced in the Sheriff’s Office, which meant the officers were paid per arrest. The system proved to be very dysfunctional. Shady arrests were made, often without substantial evidence, which included numerous fines for “drunkenness” and “fee grabbing” from tourists and travelers on a similar pretext.
In the period between 1936 and 1946, it is estimated that the fees amounted to more than 300,000 dollars.
In the meantime, Cantrell ran for State Senate, leaving his trusty deputy, Pat Mansfield, in charge. The racquet worsened, and the local population became increasingly displeased. When several investigations by the US Department of Justice failed to make a dent in the lucrative violation of authority, the situation reached boiling point.
During wartime, thousands of men from McMinn County, which includes Athens, had joined the fight against fascism overseas. The shortage of suitable men had led to the employment of law-enforcement officers who often included ex-convicts with violent criminal records.
As the war ended in 1945, around 3,000 soldiers from McMinn returned home, only to find that the corruptive local government was stronger than ever. Apart from the Sheriff’s Office, the corrupted clique, controlled by E. H. Crump held the local media, schools, and pretty much all of the government institutions.
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*This is an Amazon affiliate link. When you purchase something through it, this author receives a commission from Amazon at no extra charge to you, the buyer. If you like history, then check out The Patriot, Gone with the Wind, and The Longest Day and pick them up at your earliest opportunity. After all, it is Independence Day. What better time could there be to watch these great historical movies?