The meeting was presided by Second Vice President Dave Whaley. Chaplain Eddie Cartwright gave the invocation. Bill McClure led the pledge to the U.S. flag; state Rep. Eric Watson led the pledge to the Tennessee flag,; and Tommy McLain led the SAR flag pledge.
Among the guests were Bill Grey and Mary Ellen Hyberger. Prospective members present were John Clines, Bill Creech and Scott Lawson.
Eight new members (six regular members and two juniors members) were inducted by Stan Evans.
The regular members were David Benton, Max Everhart, Jim Kerr, Dr. Clyde Kyle, Arthur McReynolds and Shawn Pritchett, and the junior members were Ezekiel Pritchett and Jedsen Pritchett.
State Vice President Claude Hardison assisted in the induction ceremony by reading the history of the Society Rosette, and presenting a rosette to each new regular member.
Each regular member then spoke briefly on their membership.
New member Shawn Pritchett presented new junior member certificates to his two sons, Ezekiel and Jedsen.
Whaley introduced the evening’s keynote speaker, Joe Guy, sheriff of McMinn County, who spoke on “The Battle of Athens.”
Guy is a 20-year veteran law enforcement officer and public servant, who worked 10-plus years as a patrol officer, patrol supervisor, SRO supervisor, and commander of the sheriff’s department tactical team which he co-founded. Prior to being elected sheriff in 2010, he worked for eight years as assistant to the county mayor in McMinn County.
A published author, Guy’s articles on “Tactical Operations in Schools” and “Officer-Community Relationships” have been published in national periodicals. He is also the author of two books on local law enforcement and five on local and regional history.
Guy serves on numerous boards and civic organizations, including the McMinn County Historical Society, president of the Southeast Tennessee Resource Conservation and Development Council, chairman of the McMinn County Health Council, McMinn County 911 User Committee (former chairman) Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association, Englewood Youth Football, Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, McMinn County Adult Education Foundation Board; chapter president of the Hiwassee Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, Athens Optimist Club and Nocatula Civitan.
He is also a member of the Cleveland State Community College Law Enforcement Advisory Committee, Fraternal Order of Police, the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association and the National Sheriff’s Association. A graduate of the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy, Guy is a licensed EMT, and holds a bachelor’s in management from Covenant College. He is a Certified Public Records Administrator, and graduate of the UT County Officials Certification Program.
He and his wife, Stephanie, reside on a small farm near Englewood, and have three sons: Brady, Jackson and Will.
Guy started his talk by going back to 1819 when McMinn County was formed from the old Hiwassee District.
At that time counties in the state were governed by a Quarterly Court made up of captains from each militia district, and met quarterly. Soon, the captains were replaced by justices of peace (squires) elected from each Civil District.
These squires elected from their own body the county judge. The county judge and sheriff are the two most powerful elected officials in the county.
Guy noted politically that during the Reconstruction period the Republicans were in office, and remained until the Great Depression when the Democrats gained power.
During these periods of leadership “political machines” grew, with some being beneficial to the public and some not so. Then World War II broke out and the country went off to war fighting for the principles of freedom, Guy said.
In 1945 the GIs started returning from Europe and the Pacific, with youthful idealism about how government should operate, and were prepared to see the political machines eliminated, Guy said.
A nonpartisan party, the GI Party, was established in McMinn County to challenge the Democratic office holders in the August 1946 election. At the voting places, GI poll watchers assumed their posts armed only with whistles to prevent any election manipulation. Deputies were brought in from other counties by the sheriff and were also posted at the polling places, increasing the tension as voting began.
Tom Gillespie, a black voter, was shot by one of these deputies at Precinct II, and tensions rose from this to the breaking point. The deputies basically held the GI watchers captive with drawn guns, but two managed to escape during the distraction, Guy said.
Sheriff Pat Mansfield believed he’d lost control and ordered all ballot boxes to be confiscated and taken to the Old Jail on White Street.
After a brief meeting, the GIs obtained a truckload of rifles from the National Guard armory and distributed them on the courthouse square. Some of the ballot boxes had already been taken to the jail. The GIs formed a plan to position themselves across from the jail and demand the ballot boxes be surrendered.
Gunfire started between the deputies and the GIs. The power lines were shot out and several people in the jail were wounded, Guy said.
Attempts were made by the Mansfield-Cantrell faction to contact the governor for help, but no help came. Several deputies escaped out the back of the jail, but no ballot boxes were seen.
Demands were made for surrender. Some GI supporters from Meigs County arrived with dynamite. When the second charge was detonated under the jail porch, deputies surrendered to the GIs.
The GIs assumed control and at a meeting, a three-man provisional government was established until the election results were confirmed. Once the votes were counted, all GI candidates were declared winners. New officials took office, and healing began. The event quickly faded away but on a positive note resulted in a new form of county government for Tennessee and much of the Southeast, Guy said.
Vice President and chapter member Claude Hardison reported several events, including the national awards the chapter received at the state Society Board of Governors meeting in Franklin on July 21. The awards will be presented to the chapter in September when President Stone returns.
Hardison also reported on the only National SAR event in Tennessee which is the celebration of “The Gathering at Sycamore Shoals” on Sept. 21 and22 in Elizabethton, and reported on the National Society Fall Leadership/Trustees meeting in Louisville, Ky., Sept. 28 and29.
During officer reports, Treasurer Doug Carpenter announced the chapter was in great shape financially.
Phil Newman, chair of the Statue Committee, reported the committee had achieved enough funding through the fundraising efforts, for sculptor Josh Coleman to start the first several phases of the building of the Col. Benjamin Cleveland statue. Newman presented photos showing the life-size clay model that is already nearing completion. It is about 6 feet, 6 inches high. Newman states the clay model will be ready in about a month to go to the foundry in Atlanta for the next steps.
He noted contributions are still needed for costs involving the erection of the statue and its final placement on site.
Chapter member John Echerd who is the state chairman of the National Society’s “Friends of the Library” committee, spoke on this program and how the funds help the National Library in Louisville, Ky.
He also spoke on the national program, CAAH (Committee for the Advancement of American Heritage).
Sam Allen reported chapter member Judge Carl Collums was retiring from the bench at the end of the month.
Stan Evans announced he had been contacted by a director at Lee University, through state Rep. Kevin Brooks, concerning a proposed history project for local elementary students, to be carried out by the joint efforts of the Col. Benjamin Cleveland Chapter and Lee University. Again it is only in the planning stages now.
After a short discussion Whaley closed the meeting, with the recessional, and Cartwright delivering the benediction.