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On 2 August 1946, some Americans, brutalized by their county government, used armed force to overturn it. These Americans wanted honest, open elections. For years they had asked for state or Federal election monitors to prevent vote fraud -- forged ballots, secret ballot counts, and intimidation by armed sheriff's deputies -- by the local political boss. They got no help.
In five precincts free of vote fraud, the GI candidate for sheriff, Knox Henry, won 1,168 votes to Cantrell's 789, while other GI candidates won by similar margins. On August 2, a town meeting set up a three-man governing committee. The regular police having fled, six men were chosen to police Etowah. In addition, "Individual citizens were called upon to form patrols or guard groups, often led by a GI... To their credit, however, there is not a single mention of an abuse of power on their behalf." Once the GI candidates' victory had been certified, they cleaned up county government, the jail was fixed, newly elected officials accepted a $5,000 pay limit and Mansfield supporters who resigned were replaced.
The general election on November 5 passed quietly. McMinn County residents, having restored the rule of law, returned to their daily lives. Pat Mansfield moved back to Georgia, and Paul Cantrell set up an auto dealership in Etowah. "Almost everyone who knew Cantrell in the years after the Battle' agree that he was not bitter about what had happened."
The 79th Congress had adjourned on August 2, 1946, when the Battle of Athens ended. However, Representative John Jennings Jr. from Tennessee decried McMinn County's sorry situation under Cantrell and Mansfield and the Justice Department's repeated failures to help the McMinn County residents. Jennings was delighted that "...at long last, decency and honesty, liberty and law have returned to the fine county of McMinn.."