Seat of Democracy in Athens and Alice’s 13th BoxWilliam Heckman2020-10-30T15:29:29-05:00
Seat of Democracy in Athens and Alice’s 13th Box
This is an article from the Fall 2020 issue of Combat Stress
BY LTC (RET) Charlie Bass, MD, PhD
Yellow journalism has ebbed not at all since the April issue of Combat Stress. Numbers of Coronavirus infection are still printed daily and prominently in digital and printed platforms. The latest number is 7.22 million cases. Of course, these are total in the history of our nation combatting the disease since the beginning of March. Hold on! The natural history (i.e., what happens if the disease is left on its own to develop) of COVID-19 shows it to be an infection that lasts for three weeks on the outside.1
Why is it necessary for us to know – several times each day, no less – how many infections there have been nationwide since early March?
Cases of re-infection after recovery is only anecdotal (i.e., such cases have happened only a few times in the disease’s history), not statistical trends. Why are the newspapers not covering the numbers of those who have recovered? The lethality rate is still less than one percent.2 Those who have been following this string since the April edition of Combat Stress know that those numbers mean that one who is infected with Coronavirus has better than a 99 percent chance of full recovery. We also know that BlackLivesMatter.org has raised millions of dollars for ActBlue.com, which has a great track record…of helping Democratic, white candidates get into offices, such as might be seen in their financial campaign support of Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke.3 While black lives certainly do matter, the organization seems more committed to fundraising for Democrats than to the things that actually matter to black lives.
Former US Army Green Beret officer (now cowboy) Don Bendell wrote:
“According to the FBI https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/preliminary-report, 95 police officers were shot and killed in the United States in 2019. Where was the outrage? Black Americans comprise 13 percent of our population, but black males, 6 percent of our population, and who are responsible for 45 percent of the homicides. Most of these are Black on Black crimes.”4
Our country is now racing toward November’s election with the building tension of a gunfight at sundown, which leads to a lesser-known chapter of American history.
Athens, Greece is known as the Birthplace of Democracy, where people rule themselves instead of subjecting themselves to a king. This holds true in the United States as well and American citizens demonstrate themselves as willing to take up arms to preserve that freedom. In August of 1946, another Athens – this one in Tennessee – showed the nation the real reason why the Second Amendment was included with the Bill of Rights.
First, know that officers in the Department of Defense swear an oath to, “…protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” That defense became necessary to preserve the sanctity of the ballot box. Tennessee State Senator Paul Cantrell, worked with his sheriff, Pat Mansfield, to rule McMinn County as it suited their needs, which often ran afoul of the best needs of the community they were charged to serve. The deputies – 16 of them, as well as 30 others who could be deputized in emergencies – would make lethal threats to citizens and would beat, blackjack, and bully people as they saw fit. During World War II, one G.I. was home on leave and was shot and killed by a deputy. Some of the deputies had criminal records and one had been convicted of, “…taking a little girl out and violating the age of consent.”5
It was a political machine and its funding was shadowy, but solid; fueled by gambling joints, prostitution, and bootleggers; all closely tied with the E.H. “Boss” Crump political machine in Memphis.6
Another source of funding was from the state. Each person in jail netted 75 cents per day for the sheriff. When election time came, the votes were counted…by the sheriff in the privacy of the jail. Anyone who interfered – such as to provide independent observation of the ballot count – was labeled a troublemaker and jailed…which then kept the wheels of the machine greased with another 75 cents. The Democratic machine had taken the office from the Republicans in 1936…with rumors that the ballot had been fixed. With the start of WWII, 3,500 men from McMinn County left to wear the nation’s uniform and the county’s problems worsened. Residents began reciting the line, “Wait till the G.I. boys come home.”7
When the G.I.s did come home, many wondered why, after ensuring democracy for the Germans, Italians, and Japanese, did their own home county continue to be ruled by despotism? In the election of 1947, one Marine Veteran of the War in the Pacific remembered, “Well, we formed a ticket, got candidates to run for every office in McMinn County.”7 County residents were suspicious of foul play at the outset of the 1946 election, when Cantrell now ran for sheriff and Mansfield ran now for state senator, after building a nest egg of over $100,000 for himself…on a $5,000 per annum paycheck as sheriff.8
Things came to a head when an elderly, black farmer, Tom Gillespie, tried to vote and was told by Cantrell’s men he would not be allowed to do so. When Mr. Gillespie ran down the street, the deputy drew his pistol and shot the farmer in the back.9 Some of the Veterans had been arrested as well and others had been bullied by the Cantrell forces. The Veterans went to the National Guard armory, armed themselves, and took position on a low hill near the jail where the ballots were being counted. Someone from the jail fired and the shooting started. Eventually, several sticks of dynamite blew the porch off the jail and its denizens surrendered. Escaped were Paul Cantrell and Pat Mansfield, who rode away in cowardice after calling for an ambulance.
They had suffered no injuries but knew the G.I.s outside the courthouse would give the ambulance safe passage. “…instead of returning to the hospital, the ambulance sped north out of town.”8
When the ballot box was counted, Cantrell’s political machine had rigged the polls to give themselves a 15-to-1 victory. In precincts where the polls were monitored by the sheriff’s men and the G.I.s, however, Cantrell and Mansfield lost by a 3-to-1 margin, which favored Henry Knox as the new sheriff. Henry was promptly installed, and the county quickly grew peaceful. The gambling halls and prostitution houses quietly shut their doors and moved away.
While it would be a matter, of course, to sentence a rowdy, armed crowd to lengthy prison terms after storming a jail and rooting out the sheriff, no charges were filed. Contemporary accounts by the media at the time were mostly critical of the Veterans and painted them as unruly, out-of-control upstarts when the fact of the matter is that they were well-disciplined.
It brings to mind a quote from Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story (appointed to the Supreme Court by James Madison in November of 1811), “The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”10 When America’s Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment, it was not because they just came from a hunting party.
It should be clearly stated that, after two wars and responding to the Federal Building bombing in April of 1995, this writer detests violence and will actively stand against those who condone its senseless manifestations. However, there is something worse than war. English philosopher John Stuart Mill was observing the Civil War in America and wrote for Fraser’s Magazine in London in February of 1862:
“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war is worse. A man who has nothing which he cares about more than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”11
This brings the storyline to one of the most infamous scandals in the history of the State of Texas, the Box 13 Scandal. Alice is the county seat of Jim Wells County, with a population of about 19,000 citizens today, about a 45 minutes’ drive from this writer’s home in Corpus Christi. It has never been a metropolis, but in 1948 it was the center of a political scandal involving power-grabbing politicians, party bosses, and judges, with the Texas Rangers doing all they could to keep the peace. At the time, Lyndon B. Johnson ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate against former Texas Governor Coke Stevenson, the latter leading the race by six percent. Both were Democrats, as finding Republicans in Texas in 1948 was like looking for the sun at midnight. The stink of it was, with nearly 100,000 votes statewide, Johnson won the election by 87 votes. There is more to the story though if we scratch a little deeper.
As the count was being taken, five days after the polls closed, Stevenson was in the lead by 113 votes. With Hubris as his running mate and John Connally as his campaign manager, Johnson broadcast a victory speech, with, “We have won,” as the continual refrain. The next day, September 3rd, it was found that Precinct 13 had been “recanvassed,” and a “correction” was made, favoring Johnson with 200 more votes; this in a county whose voting strength totaled 800. When asked to see the “corrected” list, those loyal to Johnson delayed overnight and Stevenson called on the Texas Rangers to keep the peace at the morning showdown outside the bank, where the list was kept in the vault.12
Ranger Captain Frank Homer was an honorable man who exacted prompt obedience and conducted himself as every bit the professional, as his presence deterred violence. The bank employee allowed Stevenson’s men to see the list, but only from a distance. Several oddities came to light. First, there were exactly 200 names. Second, the 200 names had been added in green ink, whereas the rest of the list was in black. Third, they all had the decency to vote in alphabetical order. Fourth, it was difficult to find addresses for any of the voters on the list, except for three. Those three were disinclined to testify, as they had been in the cemetery (under the cemetery, really) for up to four years.12
In a quote often attributed to Josef Stalin, “It’s not who votes that counts. It’s who counts the votes.” Surely there were Machiavellian forces at work in Jim Wells County that September. An injunction was filed by the Coke Stevenson team. Justice Hugo Black of the U.S. Supreme Court struck it down on September 29th and Lyndon B. Johnson went to Washington, D.C. to represent Texas. Because he was in Washington, he was in place when John F. Kennedy needed a running mate who could secure electoral votes from Texas. Because that happened, Johnson was in place to run up the steps of Air Force One to get sworn in as President of the United States within hours of President Kennedy’s assassination in November of 1963. As only some of us are old enough to remember, this occurred in Dallas with John Connally – by then Governor of Texas – riding in the seat in front of and below the doomed president.
To add further insult, after the showdown at the bank in September of 1948, Johnson alleged that Texas Ranger Captain Frank Homer used force, threats, and intimidation in the performance of his duties, further displaying partisan support of Stevenson. By all accounts of witnesses, however, Captain Homer, “…scrupulously maintained the traditional neutrality of the Texas Rangers…He was sent in to prevent riot and bloodshed. He did just that, and nothing more.” Decades later, the Johnson charge continued to rankle the Rangers.12
In the last four years, the nation has seen one political party trying their level best to make this country greater, more unified, and obtain jobs for Americans. The other political party does nothing but complain. Liberal Democratic celebrity Bill Maher may have tipped his party’s hand when he said, live on air with HBOs show “Real Time” in June of 2018, his callow words,
“Can I ask about the economy? Because this economy is going pretty well…I feel like the bottom has to fall out at some point and, by the way, I’m hoping for it because, I think, one way you get rid of Trump is a crashing economy. So please, bring on the recession. Sorry if that hurts people.”13
In Florida, Michael Bloomberg raised $16 million for the sole purpose of getting convicted felons – around 32,000 – to vote for Joe Biden. It seems no low is too low in the desperate panic of the Democratic party to glean votes.14
It seems more and more young people are lured by the deceptive idea that socialism is a good thing, when it has never in history worked before. One young college student at a local institute of higher learning (both will remain unnamed) was asked about socialism and voiced her opinion that it was the “party of sociable, friendly people.” To clear the air, socialism is when a person has two cows. The government takes one of the cows and gives it to your neighbor, leaving you with half of what you had when you started.15
Carol Roth had a fine summation of socialism from April of 2019:
“They can call it ‘democratic socialism,’ but socialism is so awful and flawed that no modifier can make it palatable — garbage by any other name still stinks. In fact, adding ‘democratic’ to socialism is basically the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig.”16
Along the street of stable governments (bearing in mind that the United States’ constitutional government is the oldest form of government in the world; since the Constitution’s ratification in 1788, every other government on the planet has changed its form), socialism is next door to communism. The record has shown this to be the most lethal force in human history, with one estimate from November of 2017 showing 100 million people dead from that form of government.17
As President Ronald Regan said, “How do you tell a Communist? Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.”18
It seems one entire political party has been obsessed with nothing but running down President Donald J. Trump. It makes the heads on Mount Rushmore sadly shake to think that politicians used to work for the betterment of the United States. After seeing disorderly mobs looting stores in Santa Monica, California, following calls for defunding of police departments, the Prayer March came to recognition on September 26th in Washington, D.C., with an estimates running as high as 50,000 attendees at the request of the Reverend Franklin Graham.19
A few facts emerged from the Prayer March that bear illumination. Not a single car was left burning or overturned. Not a single store was looted. No arrests were made, and no police officers were assaulted. Goodwill, unification, and amity were the order of the day. Prayers reaching beyond politics were raised for both sides of the political aisle and our nation emerged stronger as a result.19
Given the option, this writer prefers the peaceful and genuine message of unity and to see We The People stand for the greater good. My sincere hope is that the good readers of this publication will do the same.
As an appeal from coastal Texas, encourage your friends, family, and neighbors to get to the polls on November 3rd. Historically, a presidential election, at its highest, has encouraged one half of eligible voters to get to the polls. Sadly, one- half to one-third of voters feel comfortable staying home.20
As watch the Presidential and Vice Presidential Debates, please remember one last quote from President Dwight D. Eisenhower:
“Some politician some years ago said that bad officials are elected by good voters who do not vote.”21
White, Bill (July 20, 2000). “An Interview with Bill White For the Veteran’s Oral History Project Center for the Study of War and Society, Department of History, The University of Tennessee Knoxville” (PDF) (Interview). Interviewed by G. Kurt Piehler and Brandi Wilson. Athens, Tennessee. p. 19. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
Seiber, Lones (1985). “Battle of Athens.” American Heritage, Vol. 36, Issue 2, February/March 1985.
White, Theodore H. (1947). “Battle of Athens, Tennessee.” Harper’s Magazine, Vol. 194, No. 1160, January 1947, pp 54-61.
Charlie Bass, MS, PhD, MD (Lt. Col., U.S. Army, Retired), assisted and served in the aftermath of hurricanes, a tornado, a terrorist bombing, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan during 28 years with the U.S. Army. In 2014, he retired with his wife to Corpus Christi, Texas. He and his wife wish to remind readers to vote in the November election.
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