July 23, 2014 - 16:07
Polk’s Political Power Struggle
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by Marian Bailey Presswood, Polk County Historian

Next year will be twenty-five years that I’ve been writing about Polk County and its people, and have often thought about it, but never have been comfortable with writing about our political struggles of the late 1940s - early ‘50s before. However, last week one of our long time PCHGS members, Dave Talley a native of Polk County’s Basin area sent me this reminder of the kinds of events that may have  led to our ‘Battle’ in the 1950s to oust the entrenched political regime.

I don’t know how old Dave was when the 1950s events happened, but he seems pretty knowledgeable, and was old enough to remember some things first hand - as do a few of you out there. The events recorded in this particular article came from the Copper City Advance in the fall of 1938, and is just a lead-in to articles to come.  And the reform efforts started when our GI’s came home from the war and decided they hadn’t gone off to fight for someone else’s freedom and then come home to the same old political control here. It was that same idea that triggered the ‘Battle of Athens’ on August 1, 1946, and their success inspired our Polk veterans to try the same thing.  

So, is 75 years long enough to wait to begin at the beginning, this was written in 1938? And it has been about 68 years since the Good Government League was formed the 31st of August 1946, to start the ‘clean-up’? Yeah, I’m well aware that a few people are still living that could possibly be embarrassed and I sincerely apologize, as this is not my intent at all. But as I often repeat, history is history, and it may be time to let our young folks know what happened - and warn them to be alert to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

When former historian Roy Lillard collected material for his book in the decades prior to my editing it in 1999, he wrote, “Today we hope we are all Polk Countians looking toward the growth and betterment of the county. We will attempt to present the facts as recorded by the press of the time. We trust that we will never have a similar situation in Polk County, and that citizens of all political parties will hereafter work toward the good of Polk County regardless of political alignment.”

     Since 2014 is a ‘political year’, it just might be a good time to do that. Dave Talley submits the following articles, which may or may not show the lawlessness that prevailed in Polk County at the time, and the seemingly political one sidedness of arrests and trials.

Shooting of Emmett Gaddis and Frank Clayton

Copper City Advance Headline Friday September 23, 1938

E. G. GADDIS SLAIN AT DUCKTOWN WEDNESDAY -- Deputies Clayton and Crawford Held in Shooting.

Emmett Gaddis, 41, of Isabella, was shot to death on the street of Ducktown at 6:30 Wednesday night near Carl Center Furniture Company building.  In a long distance telephone conversation at noon Thursday, Sheriff Broughton Biggs stated that Gaddis was shot by Deputy Frank Clayton and Deputy Frank Crawford of Copperhill. The sheriff also said that no charges had been filed against the deputies, but that he was holding them pending charges. Shortly after the shooting, Sheriff  (Broughton) Biggs came to Ducktown to investigate the matter.  Until about two years ago, Gaddis was a deputy sheriff at Isabella.  Since then he has been attending his filling station there.

Gaddis’ body had 18 holes in it, however, it was not definitely said how many times he was shot as some of the bullets went thru the body.  Drs. Hyatt, Hicks, Guinn, and Hyde examined the dead man.   Ducktown citizens who heard the shooting, stated that it sounded like “a pack of firecrackers” and several were said to have witnessed the shooting.

The body was prepared for burial by H. E. Brewer, Ducktown undertaker, and funeral service will be held Sunday at 11 a.m. from the Isabella Baptist Church with the Rev. Thomas Truitt officiating.  Graveside services will be held at Mt. Moriah.

Surviving are his widow, Mrs. Anna Dockery Gaddis, two sons, Andrew and Emmett, Jr., one daughter Mary Anne; father Andrew J. Gaddis; two brothers, Joe of Culberson, and M. D. Gaddis of Isabella; one sister, Mrs. Pearly Kilpatrick of High Splint, KY.


Copper City Advance Friday September 23, 1938

NO-BILL RETURNED AGAINST DEPUTIES --- Crawford and Clayton freed in shooting of Gaddis. The grand jury at the Ducktown Law Court failed to get a true-bill against deputies Frank Crawford and Frank Clayton charged with shooting to death Emmett Gaddis last Wednesday night in Ducktown.   The deputies claimed they shot in self-defense.

The case of the state against Windom Gaddis charged with the murder of Fred Styles in Coletown 3 October 1936 was continued until the next term of court, and 125 jurors were ordered subpoenaed for the case.

Deputy Sheriff Frank Clayton Shot and Killed May 2, 1946

 . . .as he and two other officers went to a residence in the Chancey Town community to serve a warrant on a soldier for drunkenness.  The soldier, who was home on leave, opened fire with a 12-gauge shot gun.

Frank Crawford Shot by Woodcutter Noah Dockery, March 30, 1953

This one was also in newspapers all across the country telling of the murder of Cherokee County, NC deputy Frank Crawford in what they said was the climax of a 17 year old feud between the families. It was said that Crawford went to serve a warrant for the arrest of Dockery for setting fire to the sawmill of a man who had Dockery’s son jailed a few days before. The bad blood between the families went back to when Crawford and Clayton killed Emmett Gaddis, whose wife was Anna Dockery.  Gaddis had killed David McFadden in 1936, but had been cleared of the charges on self defense.

Ed Note: Does this sound like the domino effect where one thing leads to another, and another etc.?  


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