Elizabethton's leading citizens assault a labor leader
Dugger recalls a meeting of Elizabethton's leading citizens where they voted to assault a labor leader. Dugger did not participate in the beating, though he did watch.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with George F. Dugger Sr., August 9, 1979. Interview H-0312. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
- JACQUELYN HALL:
In 1929, do you remember when the union men were taken outside of town
and beaten up?
- GEORGE F. DUGGER, SR.:
Yes. In 1929, I was a judge of the bankruptcy court for twelve counties.
They had a meeting over at the bank, and a friend of mine come and told
me that he wanted me to go down there, that they were calling me a
"red" and he wanted me to be there. He
wouldn't tell me what was going to take place. When I got in
there, they elected officers and everything, and they voted to take this
man from North Carolina by the name of Hoffman over there and beat him
up. And I got up and said, "I didn't know the
purpose of this meeting. I'm a high judicial officer.
I'm judge of twelve counties here, and I'm
supposed to keep the peace, not to join in an unlawful act. And I
wouldn't be here if I had known what was taking place. But I
want to warn you, you'll be tried in the federal courts of
North Carolina for kidnapping, because you can't take a man
across a state line, and that's where you'll all
be." So then they voted to take him up there and flog him in
Tennessee and then run him across the line. And I said, "Well,
when you do that, it's three years in the penitentiary for
flogging a man, and you'll be prosecuted and you
shouldn't do that." So then they voted that
they'd take him out and talk to him. There was a Presbyterian
minister and a businessman, and they joined me in pleading not to do
anything harsh that'd make things
worse. So we went out, and we were going home. And the minister said,
"These men are drinking, and they're liable to hang
this man, and then that would bring us more trouble." We looked
out the door, and the vice-president of the bank was carrying this
man's suitcase--they'd gone in his room and got
it--and a policeman had him under arrest. They put him in his car, and
the policeman drove it. And they started on in a whole long row of cars.
When we got up near the North Carolina line, there was a low road there.
We drove down there, and the moon was shining and we could see them.
They got up there, and they punched him in the stomach with pistols, and
they threatened him pretty bad, and then they started him out. And when
he started out, he was flying in that car. He had a Buick roadster. And
they started shooting, and they shot 100 times there as he went across
the North Carolina line. So the next day he come to town, and they had a
deputy sheriff taking him around identifying the people that was there.
He met me on the street. Well, he hadn't seen me, because I
was 100 feet down in the hollow in a road, and he couldn't
possibly have seen me. I just said to him, "Now, mister, the
minute that you accuse me, an innocent man, I'm going to
prosecute you in the courts here, because my record is clear."
He waited just a minute, and then he said, "No, I
didn't see this man," so they didn't
arrest me. But they arrested the rest of them and tried to indict them,
but the grand jury turned them loose; they wouldn't indict
- JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did they call you a "red"?
- GEORGE F. DUGGER, SR.:
They called everybody that didn't agree with them, you see,
back then the communists. This man was supposed to be a communist, and
he was. The government finally certified him to be. We'd had
a meeting at the Chamber of Commerce, and the assistant secretary of
labor had made us a speech. He wanted to make a speech to the Chamber of
Commerce and advise us how to handle the thing.
And oh, they wasn't going to listen to him; he was a labor
man. Well, I'd been an experienced labor man, and I knew
there was good things and bad things in the labor movement. And this man
here was the assistant secretary of labor, and he had belonged to the
Pressmen's Union that had never had a strike in Boston. They
took him out and put him in a car to Bristol, and he come back, and it
caused an awful lot of trouble. It didn't do anybody any