Weakened Machine in
Poll Tax Skirmish
(Continued From First Page.)
officers to be filled August 1. They
had no idea how much work they
were getting into.
Paul Cantrell and Pat Mansfield.
Democrats, had run the county since
they wrested it from the Republi
cans in 1936. The county had a
Republican background dating back
to the Civil War, when many
McMinn County men fought for the
Union. In the Cantrell regime, the
people were disturbed by the vio
lence of "fee-grabbing'' deputy
sheriffs. Men arrested for minor
offenses were clubbed in the jail.
Planned Nonpartisan League.
Clyde Rogers, county clerk passed
over by the machine for renomina
tion, had placed an ad in the Athens
newspaper Intimating that the 1936
election had been stolen from the
Republicans. The ad said the peo
ple were paying too much for gov
ernment and cited from the records
df the county clerk’s office the sums
paid by the county to the sheriff.
It was after this ad appeared that
Jim Buttram, 24, back clerking in
his father’s grocery store after be-!
ing wounded in Normandy on D day |
plus 16, called a meeting of three |
GIs. including himself, and three
businessmen, at which the GI Non
partisan League was planned.
Then Mr. Buttram got together a
larger group of veterans and pro
nosed the Dlan to contest the countv
elections. Most of the ideas about!
democracy and politicians discussed !
in rest camps in Africa, Europe and
the islands of the Pacific came to:
the fore. The boys were against
politicians. They liked the idea of
a non-partisan banner.
Some of them wanted to have
the Nonpartisan League declare
against Ed Crump, the Shelby
County (Memphis) boss who con
trols the Democratic party of the
State. They wanted to aid in the
primary campaign of Edward W.
Carmack running for the Demo
cratic senatorial nomination against
Senator Kenneth McKellar, candi
date of the Crump machine. But
they were reminded that this was
a nonpartisan league asking sup
port of Democrats and Republicans
for a change of government in the
GOP Chairman Contacted.
"Let's carry the county first,”!
said Mr. Buttram. ‘‘We’ll go after
They went to Otto Kennedy, ga
rage operator who is chairman of
the Republican party in the coun
ty. Mr. Kennedy, a quick-moving
man with grizzled temples and an
aquiline nose, is not a war veteran. |
He came of age between wars and
at 43 is a grandfather.
They told Mr. Kennedy they j
wanted his support—but without
strings. The ticket and the move-!
ment was to be nonpartisan but
they knew they would have to
have what Republican votes were
left in the county to win. Mr. Ken
nedy gave them assurances that he
would give them the complete sup
port of the party and it would be
their show if they won. He was
willing to do anything to beat the
And he showed them how much
work it was going to be; how much
ihoney it was going to cost. That
didn’t discourage the GIs—they set
out to do the job.
Connections Are Handicaps.
They encountered the usual
ruling-class connections of 'any
political machine in power. The
wealthiest man in town would not
help them. His son-in-law was
mayor. The most respected man in
town, an elder statesman who had
been a judge of the State Supreme
Court, remained neutral. He had1
acted as attorney for Paul Cantrell,
the Democratic leader. Members
of the ministers’ association assurec
the boys they were with them. But
there was not much they could do.
All had members of the Cantrell
machine in their congregations.
Among the merchants, the GIs i
found more willingness to contrib
ute money than to declare for the
cause. The GIs appointed Harry
Johnson, jr., 21, former infantryman
and son of a hardware merchant,
treasurer. They received a con
tribution of $750 from an unnamed
organization and three individual
$500 contributions. Before they were
through, they had raised $15,000—
a sizeable war chest in a county of
30,000 population. And they hus
banded their fund so carefully that
at the end of the campaign, instead
of the usual deficit, they had funds
to aid in the formation of a Good
They went about things in a
business-like way. They put Jim
Buttram on a salary so he could
leave the grocery store and devote
all his time to the management of
the campaign. They rented a store
just off Courthouse Square. And
they put a big red banner of bunt
He ran for sheriff.
ing across it for all the town to see.
It read: "GI Nonpartisan League
Picked Slate Carefully.
They were advised to select their
slate with regard to locality in the
county so that no community would
feel neglected. They selected two Re
publicans and three Democrats for
the five county offices. Four of the
candidates were GIs, the fifth a
veteran of World War I. They
headed their ticket with Knox
Henry, a former sergeant who had
returned to running his gasoline
station in Athens after being in
valided in a jeep accident in North
Africa. He ran for sheriff. Their
candidate for county trustee (called
treasurer or controller in counties
of other States) was Frank Car
michael, who had returned to his
father’s farm near Etowah with a
Purple Heart and Oak Leaf cluster
for two wounds on the same day in
the St. Lo breakthrough, where he
was an infantry captain.
George Painter, an Etowah me
chanic wounded on Okinawa, was
selected for county court clerk; Bill
Hamby of Athens, a former captain
in the South Pacific, for circuit court
clerk, and Charlie Pickel, an Engle
wood carpenter wounded in World
War I, for register of deeds.
The political device then used was
the classic New York "fusion” man
euver, which made political history
several times by overturning Tam
many Hall. A few days after the
GIs had announced their ticket, the
county Republican party met in con
vention and named the same candi
Cantrell Headed Opposing Slate.
The opposition slate was headed
by Mr. Cantrell, the Democratic
county leader. He was running for
sheriff again. In the 10 years of
Cantrell rule he had served the
three two-year consecutive terms as
sheriff allowed by the State con
stitution. Mr. Mansfield had served
the last two terms. Mr. Mansfield
was running for State Senator to
represent McMinn and two neigh
boring counties. Mr. Cantrell, the
incumbent, was surrendering that
honor for the sheriff’s office, vari
ously estimated to be worth $25,000
to $75,000 a year in fees if the Jail
was kept full.
The records showed that there
were 2,500 GIs in the county. They
were never mobilized politically in
the campaign. They had returned
with various political interests or
degrees of indifference. The Non
partisan League’s membership was
about 200. The job was done by 25
to 50 young men, who came to the
fore by their dependability in ac
cepting a mission and reporting it
done. Near the end. 100 of the GIs
took a solemn oath that they would
see it through even if it was a mat
ter of life or death.
Young Mr. Buttram and his lieu
tenants found that their GI Non
partisan ticket had tremendous
appeal. "Sure, we are going to vote
for you,” a man would say. "I had
two sons in the service.” Or, it
might be a nephew or a brother or
a cousin. The loyalty of every one
without apparent link with the
machine seemed to be enlisted by
the term GI. And some who owed
their jobs to the machine said pri
vately that the GIs would have
Now the lines began to draw
tightly. A GI active in the league
could not date a daughter of a fam
ily connected with the regime with
out becoming suspect. Charlie Scott
was the Robespierre of this village
revolution. Absolute and uncom
promising in his attitude, he gave
the movement discipline. He had
reason for his opposition to Mr.
Cantrell. Mr. Cantrell beat Charlie’s
father for sheriff when the Repub
licans lost the county in 1936.
Mr. Cantrell now began to realize
his mistake in not putting a GI on
his Democratic party ticket. He
tried to make up for it by organiz
ing a GI group of his own. It lacked
the appearance of a spontaneous
political movement because every
one knew that Garnett Rouden, its
leader, owed his State highway job
to the machine. However, he man
aged to enroll 500 members. The
Democratic (machine) GI group
opened an office upstairs on Court
House Square and hung out a
banner. But they fooled nobody.
The GI Nonpartisan League
bought time on Athens’ radio sta
tion WLAR. Ralph Duggan, one
of the older members of the group
(he is over 30) who had returned
to a successful law practice in
Athens from service in the Pacific
as a Naval reserve officer, wrote
the scripts. His heart was in his
work. His father, who died before
the Democrats took control in 1936,
had been a Republican politician.
The GI radio program constantly
asked a question raised by the
figures published by County Clerk
Rogers in his ad—“Don’t you think
that $108,000 in four years is a
lot of money to pay to the sheriff’s
Fight Centered On Duggan.
For a surprisingly long time the
Democrats did not answer. Then
one day in a speech before Con
gress Representative Jennings, Re
publican of Tennessee said he had
made several suggestions to Mr.
Duggan for the McMinn county
campaign. Then the Democratic
machine turned its guns loose over
the radio. It made its campaign
against Republican Duggan. Not a
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He wrote the scripts.
word was said against any of the
GI candidates. They were being
used, Democratic machine orators
said, by wily Republicans trying to
get back into power .
The GIs held rallies in the Athens
high school and other halls
throughout the county. The can
didates were almost tongue-tied at
first but they managed to overcome
it. Mr. Buttram learned quickly.
He developed into an effective polit
Rallies and speeches and crowd
enthusiasm were all very well, Otto
Kennedy, their coach, told them,
but the basic thing in all elections
is getting out the vote. In McMinn
os in other Tennessee counties, the
side that would win in the ballot
ing was the side that delivered
the most poll tax receipts to the
people enabling them to vote.
The period of most activity In
a Tennessee election is the period
of poll tax payments. In the case
of county elections and party pri
maries, which are held on August
1, the poll tax closes the first week
in June. So May is the busy time.
Twenty-one-year-old citizens get
their first vote free—they don't have
to pay a poll tax. GIs discharged
from the service since January 1
are extended the same courtesy.
And, on reaching the age of 50, the
Tennessee citizen becomes a free
Search Out Nonpayers.
Except for these groups and prop
erty owners who pay their poll tax
with their land tax, the great bulk
of the adult population is without
the principal franchise of citizen
ship until the political workers
arrive with the poll tax receipts.
The citizen has to surrender the
receipt at the polls to vote. The
party in power uses the list of poll
tax payments of the year before.
It is a public record, but when the
GIs inquired for it at Athens it was j:
usually out of the office.
The theory. is that the citizens :
should crane in two months before '
election and pay their poll tax—but
they don’t. The poll tax had the 1
support of the professional poll- <
ticians, as it rewarded their work
with majorities and strengthened
their continuation in power. But
its operation was so obviously bad
that popular protest caused the
Tennessee legislature to outlaw it.
The Tennessee Supreme Court held
that the legislature's action was un
constitutional. A second attempt to
bring this before the United States
Supreme Court is now being made.
The GI workers went up the
backroads and stopped at every
farmhouse. How many in the fam
ily over 21, they would ask. All
right, we will be back tomorrow with
your poll tax receipts, they said.
The GIs began to learn about public
indifference and ignorance concern
ing even a- hotly fought political
campaign. Despite the newspaper
and the radio and the meetings
they found families six miles from
Athens who did not know what was
going on. The GIs began to be im
pressed with the importance of
better education in obtaining good
Ignored Legal Way,
While I was in Tennessee, mem
bers of the League of Women
Voters were conducting a drive to
enfranchise voters and doing it
within the law. The workers go
out with power of attorney forms,
the signature blank. The citizen
signs the form authorizing the
worker to pay his poll tax and gives
the worker $1. The worker later
delivers a poll tax receipt to the
citizen. This is the legal way.
The GI workers in McMinn did:
not hamper themselves with such
niceties. They would walk into the
county trustee's office with a list
of 70 names gleaned from their
canvass of the backroads, plunk
down |70 and get 70 poll tax
receipts. It was absolutely against
the letter and spirit of the law.
But the party in power was doing
the same thing; it had been done
for years, and no one objected.
The county machine had one ad
vantage. Through the county trus
tee’s office they knew just how many
poll tax receipts the GIs were buy
ing. The machine would send out
workers to keep the machine’s pur
chases of the poll tax receipts a
couple of hundred or more ahead
of the GI purchases. Through the
last week of May the contest was
But out in the county the GIs
were hearing something again and
again that heartened them.
“Sure we’re going to vote for you,”
the people would say. “But never
mind bringing us our poll tax re
ceipts. The Democrats send them
to us every year.”
“Then,” said Harry Johnson, Jr.,
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II-year-old treasurer of the GI
Nonpartisan League in telling the
itory, “we knew we were going to
Tomorrow: The story of the elec
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mded with a blast of dynamite.
Petrillo Rule May Ban
Mexican Band in U. S.
Sy the Associated Prose
SAN MATEO, Calif., Aug. 29 —
The Mexican Tipica Orchestra will
rot appear at the San Mateo County
international Pan-American Fiesta,
and probably will not be able to
?lay at the Texas State Fair, be
;ause James C. Petrillo disapproves
>f ‘ foreigners competing with his
The president of the American
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notice that he ‘^objects strongly to
iriy foreign bands playing” in his
onion’s jurisdiction and said if the
Hpica Orchestra plays at the Texas
State Fair starting October 5, “It
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A telegram which was Interpreted
oy the San Mateo County Fiesta
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sical artists In the United States
was received yesterday from Mr.
Norvell Gillespie, association sec
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Petrillo August 24 to waive union
‘standby” charges while the Tipica
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all Pan-American Republics had
oeen invited to participate, that the
Tipica Band was being paid its
salaries by the Mexican government
and was not competing with union
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Mr. Gillespie said the charge for
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