These WWII Veterans Came Home and Launched an Insurrection Against Corrupt Politicians
Fed up with the crooked local machine, GIs took to the streets with rifles and ran them out of town.
Photos courtesy the Tennessee State Library and Archives
Deputy C.M. Wise had a problem. He was about to lose his job, and he had to watch it happen. Wise had been posted at the city waterworks office on North Madison Street in Athens, Tennessee, since before nine a.m. All morning and into the humid afternoon of August 1, 1946, “Windy” Wise watched folks from across the county cast their ballots with hard looks that spelled the end of an era for Windy, along with his fellow deputies, Sheriff Pat Mansfield, and State Senator Paul Cantrell. Wise and the others had allegedly pilfered money from the citizens of McMinn County for more than a decade. They had also allegedly murdered two GIs during the war. But now the town had finally had enough. A group of veterans fresh from World War II were making a play for control of McMinn County and they were winning. The glares made Windy scared and angry. Someone needed to do something, he thought. Now.
Tom Gillespie, a black farmer, stepped inside …