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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George F. Dugger Sr., August 9, 1979. Interview H-0312. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

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

In 1929, do you remember when the union men were taken outside of town and beaten up?
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 them.
Why did they call you a "red"?
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 good.