Book review

Coup is the behind-the-scenes story of an abrupt political transition, unprecedented in US history. Based on 163 interviews, Hunt describes how collaborators came together from opposite sides of the political aisle and, in an extraordinary few hours, reached agreement that the corruption and madness of the sitting Governor of Tennessee, Ray Blanton, must be stopped. The sudden transfer of power that caught Blanton unawares was deemed necessary because of what one FBI agent called "the state's most heinous political crime in half a century"―a scheme of selling pardons for cash.

On January 17, 1979, driven by new information that some of the worst criminals in the state's penitentiaries were about to be released (and fears that James Earl Ray might be one of them), a small bipartisan group chose to take charge. Senior Democratic leaders, friends of the sitting governor, together with the Republican governor-elect Lamar Alexander (now US Senator from Tennessee), agreed to oust Blanton from office before another night fell. It was a maneuver unique in American political history.

From the foreword by John L. Seigenthaler:

"The individual stories of those government officials involved in the coup―each account unique, but all of them intersecting―were scattered like disconnected pieces of a jigsaw puzzle on the table of history until the author conceived this book. Perhaps because it happened so quickly, and without major disagreement, protest, or dissent, this truly historic moment has been buried in the public mind. In unearthing the drama in gripping detail, Keel Hunt assures that the 'dark day' will be remembered as a bright one in which conflicted politicians came together in the public interest."

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

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