An American Tale of Armed Revolution
ATHENS, TENNESSEE, 1946 – In the 1930’s a wealthy family of corrupt Democrats, the Cantrell’s, had taken control of the local county political machine.
Paul Cantrell had been elected county sheriff in 1936, ’38, & ’40. Then, in 1942 & ’44 he was elected to the state senate, with his chief deputy, Pat Mansfield being elected county sheriff. Cantrell ran for office as a Franklin Delano Roosevelt Democrat.
The Department of Justice had received complaints from citizens about election fraud in three separate elections, but did nothing.
Sheriff’s deputies routinely were bribed, intimidated others, tampered with ballot boxes and beat those who speak out. They would ticket, arrest and extort individuals to obtain money for political and personal uses.
But then, in 1946, the heroes of World War 2 came home.
They hadn’t fought fascism in Europe, just to see it come here. During the 1946 elections, veterans fielded non-partisan candidates in order to have a fraud-free election. Paul Cantrell was again running for sheriff, while the current sheriff Pat Mansfield, was trying to get his senate seat. They were trying to switch seats to hold on to power.
But the Heroes of Athens were not going to permit that to happen.
On election day, Sheriff Mansfield brought 200 deputies to harass, detain and beat the ex-GI poll watchers. They then confiscated the ballot boxes and returned to the local jail for the ‘official’ count. This was a violation of Tennessee state law of the time, which stated that all ballots must be counted in full view of the voting public.
The veterans armed themselves and made their way to local jail. What they did next astounded the nation, and will astound you.
Watch: The Battle of Athens – McMinn County War