The Battle of Athens is the most significant event in McMinn County’s history. It is known to people all over the world and is still talked about generations later. Beginning at 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, at Market Park in Athens, the public is invited to commemorate this event on its 76th anniversary. It will be just a few blocks away from the site of the battle.
On the evening of Aug.1, 1946, dozens of WWII veterans gathered on a hill across from the county jail on White Street (now the parking lot of Carter Insurance) demanding that the sheriff and his deputies hand over the ballot boxes they had confiscated from the polls for “safekeeping.” A shot rang out, and the two sides exchanged gunfire for several hours.
The fighting only ceased after dynamite blasts finally forced the deputies to surrender. A fair count of the ballots took place. The GI Non-Partisan Ticket, comprised of Democrats and Republicans, had defeated the local political machine. A decade of election fraud, graft, and police brutality finally came to an end. Our county quickly began to heal, but this event can never be forgotten.
The Battle of Athens Festival will feature multiple speakers, including local historians and descendants of the GIs who risked their lives and futures on that hot summer night. An expert on Tennessee’s elections laws will discuss how the Volunteer State now has the most secure elections in the country. Photographs from and videos about the battle will be screened. Dozens of vendors and food trucks will also feature.
The festival lasts until 9 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend and there will be something fun for everyone. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BattleofAthens75 for more information.