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By John Oliver, President, Historical Society

You don’t have to live in the United States very long to overhear someone talk about “dirty politics.”

Even today we talk about “hostile political divisions” between citizens who one day are friendly neighbors, and the next are having a war of words on social media!

We won’t take sides in any political debate here, but in the past Tennessee politics was more than words or even the occasional bloody nose – it was a duel to the death.

© Birthplace of Country Music; Donated at the request of the late William Wampler. Reprinted with permission
This poster is from Roy Acuff’s run for governor of Tennessee as the Republican candidate in 1948. One of his campaign stops along the way was here in Hartsville!
Acuff added his signature to the photo in 1972.

So many residents of the state got involved in bloody combat that in 1817 all public officials in Tennessee had to swear that they had not fought a duel since that law took effect, or “had issued a challenge nor acted as a second in a duel” and to furthermore promise not to engage in a duel while in office!

Tennessee’s own Andrew Jackson took part in a famous duel that left him with a bullet that doctors were unable to remove. He carried that bullet with him till his death.

Another Tennessean with no fear of fighting was David Crockett.

While we have no evidence of the famous backwoodsman ever passing through Hartsville on his way to Washington, he likely did so.

But we do have this story about him in the halls of congress.

Sitting in the United States House of Representatives, Crockett was listening to an especially long speech by a fellow representative. When Crockett heard him beginning to repeat himself, the feisty Tennessean jumped up and hollered for all to hear, “Aw, sit down you fool! You’re comin’ out the same hole you went in at!”

Politics does get a bad rap at times. But like a necessary evil, if we didn’t have politicians we wouldn’t have any government. And without government, who knows where we would be.

Rural people often have a low opinion of politicians, so it comes as no surprise that some elected officials deny their involvement in the election process. In the 1940s, Nashville newspaper columnist Red O’Donnell was interviewing Smith County’s veteran son, I.D. Brooks. O’Donnell asked Brooks how long he had been involved in politics.

Brooks quickly replied, “I’ve held public office since 1921, but I’ve never been in politics!”

Rural representatives tend to be close-fisted when it comes to spending county money.

As the old adage goes, “You can’t get a farmer to vote for money for county roads, unless the road in question runs right in front of his farm.”

One Trousdale County candidate for the County Commission ran his announcement for office in The Vidette 40 years ago with this comment, “I ask for the support of all those in this district who would like to see an end to more and wasteful spending and for an increasing property tax to pay for unneeded and useless projects.”

Of course, one man’s definition of “useless projects” is not another man’s definition!

Hartsville has had its share of politicians, and we will visit with several in the next few articles, but due to the money that flowed in and out of our town from the tobacco market in the past we were a necessary stop for any politician running for statewide office.

When the late country music great Roy Acuff ran for governor of Tennessee, he put Hartsville on his list of places to be seen.

A month before the November election of 1948, the musician-turned-politician made plans to appear here. The Tennessean carried an article announcing the event.

Dr. Archer, Homer Alexander, and O.G. Davis were in charge of his arrival and presentation.

The Nashville newspaper said, “Davis predicted that the largest crowd ever to attend a political gathering would be on hand to hear the candidate and the music of Acuff’s Smoky Mountain Boys.”

No doubt the crowd was large, for after all Acuff was a very popular regular on the Grand Ole Opry. But Acuff ran on the Republican ticket at a time when 99 percent of Trousdale County voted Democratic. He lost the race here and across the state to Gordon Browning, who won statewide with 67 percent of the vote.

Note: The Historical Society will hold its monthly meeting on Saturday, July 13 at 2 p.m. at the County Archives building, located behind the Administration Building on Broadway. Our speaker will be Mr. Kent Moreland.

CORRECTION: The lady in last week’s photo was Sadie Jane Parrish Clardy and her husband was Roy Clardy. The Vidette regrets the error.