Coup: The Day the Democrats Ousted Their Governor, Put Republican Lamar Alexander in Office Early, and Stopped a Pardon Scandal

By Farrington, Joshua D. | The Journal of Southern History, November 2014 | Go to article overview

Coup: The Day the Democrats Ousted Their Governor, Put Republican Lamar Alexander in Office Early, and Stopped a Pardon Scandal


Farrington, Joshua D., The Journal of Southern History


Coup: The Day the Democrats Ousted Their Governor, Put Republican Lamar Alexander in Office Early, and Stopped a Pardon Scandal. By Keel Hunt. (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2013. Pp. [xviiij, 275. $27.50, ISBN 978-0-8265-1932-0.)

Keel Hunt's Coup: The Day the Democrats Ousted Their Governor, Put Republican Lamar Alexander in Office Early, and Stopped a Pardon Scandal is a thoroughly entertaining book that details, minute by minute, the events leading up to the 1979 "coup" that replaced Tennessee's Democratic governor Ray Blanton with Republican governor-elect Lamar Alexander days before the constitutionally mandated inauguration. While this story is not new--Blanton's apparent cash-for-clemency scheme filled the scandal-hungry Tennessee and national press in the late 1970s--Hunt's book stands out as the only work that attempts to synthesize the story's details into a single narrative. Hunt, a journalist and former aide to Lamar Alexander, also brings new revelations to the story, such as the FBI's fear that if the price was right, Blanton might have even pardoned Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassin, James Earl Ray. Candid details such as these are a result of an impressive number of interviews Hunt conducted with over one hundred leading figures in Tennessee politics.

More than simply desiring to tell the story of Blanton's demise, Hunt celebrates the lives of the individuals who participated in Alexander's "coup." Indeed, the first third of the book is devoted to providing biographical vignettes of Tennessee's leading politicians of the 1970s. Though at times these dozens of tangents into the personal lives of each politician prevent this book from offering a more concise narrative of Blanton's ousting, they are almost always insightful. …

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