The Battle of Athens Committee held a “walkabout” parade and festival at the Athens Regional Park to commemorate the most historically significant event in the history of McMinn County.
“We held this free event at the Reginal Park to allow plenty of room for floats, food trucks, craft vendors and children’s games,” said Suzanne Eltz, Battle of Athens Committee chair. It included onsite historians speaking about the battle, storyboards with images, and (hopefully) artifacts from the day that people have saved in their families.
Officials said, "In 1946 veterans had returned from WWII to find they had more tyranny to battle within their own city of Athens: corrupt politicians and a police force used to further their entrenched political machine via predatory policing, brutality and voter intimidation. On Election Day, Aug. 1, fielding a slate of non-partisan candidates to challenge Pat Mansfield and his stranglehold on the populace, the veterans became aware that one of their poll watchers, who had requested a ballot box at the Water Works polling place to be certified as empty, had been arrested and taken to jail and the polls closed, taking the ballot boxes to the safety of the jail where they could not be counted. The veterans surrounded the jail with a coalition of hundreds of armed men, demanding the ballot boxes, and returned gunfire with the sheriff and his deputies; lasting several hours, they knew they must act before the National Guard arrived and dynamited the jailhouse porch, bringing the fight to an end and retrieving the ballot sheets that had been illegally marked by the sheriff and his officers. After the votes were officially counted, veteran Knox Henry was declared the new sheriff and the election of the five GI Non-Partisan League candidates."
“Recognition of this event is long overdue in Athens and a group of us decided that we would not let this 75th anniversary go without notice,” said Ms. Eltz. “There are people who would like to shut down any revival of the battle because their ancestors were on the wrong side; however, the overwhelming support from the people of Athens shows us just how important it is to keep history alive. History isn’t daisies and daffodils and trying to hide a part of it won’t put you on the right side of it.”