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In 1918, votes bring about big changes

Downtown Jonesborough, in the 1900s.  


Associate Editor

[email protected]

EDITOR’S NOTE: Readers who find this article interesting are asked to provide the Herald and Tribune with any accounts, letters or photographs they may have of events during 1918.  Please reply to the author of this article at the email listed below or by postal mail at P. O. Box, 277, Jonesborough, TN. 37659.

The election of 1918 resulted in a number of cultural changes in the United States, not the least of which was the pursuit of the right to vote for women, as shown in the image below. A world war and a flu epidemic were also on voters minds as they headed to the polls.

A country engaged in a world war, a flu epidemic, a crusade against alcohol and the women’s suffrage movement occupied voters going to the polls in Washington County in 1918.  The Monday, Aug. 1 election would see a sweep of county offices by the Republican Party and new members chosen for the County Court. Candidates for state and federal officers in both the Democratic and Republican primaries were also determined.

Results of the August balloting were published in the Herald and Tribune on Thursday, Aug. 8, 1918 under the major headline:  “OFFICIAL COUNT MADE; SELLS DEFEATS HARMON.” A smaller headline read: “Democrats Nominate Roberts for Governor and Shields for U.S. Senate.  Gus Broderick Elected Sheriff.” John K. Shields  won the United States Senate primary election statewide but lost in the Washington County voting.

The story provided: “The official canvass of the ballots cast in the election on August 1 was made Monday.  In the regular election the following Republican candidates were declared elected without opposition.

“Chancellor, Hal H. Haynes, re-elected; Circuit Judge, D.A. Vines; Attorney General, O. B. Lovette; Trustee, J.W. Weeks, re-elected; County Court Clerk, W. C. Leab, re-elected; Circuit Court Clerk, W. H. Jones; Register, C. S. Maden, re-elected.

“In the race for sheriff, Gus Broderick, Democrat, defeated Lola Remine, the present incumbent by a majority of 163.  The official count is tabulated below.”

The tabulation involved the votes in 18 Districts.  For example, in the race for sheriff, Broderick received 2,008 votes while Remine had 1,875. Officials who ran in uncontested races each received approximately 2,500 votes.

“In the Democratic primary, the ballot in Washington County gave the following results: For U.S. Senate – Rye 822; Shields 710 – Rye’s majority 112; For Governor – Roberts 891; Peay 688; Shropshire 11—Roberts majority over Peay 131; For committeemen – Caldwell 1,175; Susong 1,186.”

“In the Republican primary, the ballot for the county resulted as follows: For Congressman – Sells 1,574; Harmon 890 – Sells’ majority 745; For State Senator – May 1,064; Collins 650; Roberts 599 – May’s majority over Collins 411; For the Senate District Collins was nominated by (a majority) of 44 votes.’ Sells (Congressman S. R Sells) defeated Harmon by over 2,000 (votes in the 1st Congressional District).”

“For Representative – Martin 1482; Royston 823 – Royston’s majority – 659.  For Committeemen – Thompson 1,457; Howard 1,270; Myers 728; Idol 560.   W. S. Tucker was nominated for floater without opposition.”

Unlike today, in 1918 there were 39 candidates elected to the County Court. The text of the Herald and Tribune article after a headline that read “21 NEW MEMBERS IN COUNTY COURT” read, “Of the 39 magistrates composing the county court, 18 of the old members were re-elected to office, while 21 successful aspirants replaced the others.  Politically, the complexion of the county court is Republicans 31, Democrats seven and the politics of one member unknown.”

In a subsequent edition, the names and address of the members of the county court were published as follows under the headline: “Who Belongs to the County Court – For the convenience of those who desire a complete list of the members of the present County Court, we give same below – W. C. Leab, Clerk, Jonesboro

1st District – M. M. Mauk, Chuckey, Rt. 4; Wm. S. Walter, Chuckey, Rt. 4.

2nd District – J. G. Dillow, Jonesboro, Rt. 1; S. W. Bovell, Limestone, Rt. 2.

3rd District – N. T. Bowman, Washington College, Rt. 1; T. G. Moore, Limestone, Rt. 2.

4th District – W. F. Reed, Telford, Rt. 1; J. M. Guinn, Jonesboro, Rt. 2.

5th District – D. A. Markwood, Jonesboro, Rt. 1; J. A. Hartman, Telford.

6th District – A. J. Willis, Embreville; J. W. Jones, Jonesboro, Rt. 1.

7th District – E. E. Hall, Fall Branch; A. R. Moulton, Fall Branch.

8th District – A. C. Benfield, Jonesboro, Rt. 3; Samuel J. Huffine, Johnson City, Rt. 1.

9th District – L. Armbrust, Johnson City; Thos. E. Matson, Johnson City; A. D. Hughes, Johnson City.

10th District – J. A. Swadley, Johnson City, Rt. 4; W. P. Leach, Johnson City, Rt. 4.

11th District – W. F. Carter, Jonesboro, Rt. 4; J. L. Clark, Jonesboro, Rt. 4.

12th District – C. E. Dove, Jonesboro, Rt. 10; J. M. Hale, Jonesboro, Rt. 11.

13th District – G. C. Horne, Jonesboro, Rt. 7 (Chairman); J. E. Duncan, Jonesboro, Rt. 13.

14th District – J. S. Hunt, Jonesboro, Rt. 7; L. M. Payne, Jonesboro, Rt. 6.

15th District – J. L. Hilbert, Jonesboro; Jas. H. Epps, Jonesboro; J. I Hawkins, Jonesboro; J. P. McNeil, Johnson City, Rt. 3.

16th District – J. W. Smith, Jonesboro, Rt. 7; J. Horace Smith, Jonesboro, Rt. 7.

17th District – W. S. Miller, Limestone, Rt. 1; R.  A. N. Walker, Jonesboro. Rt. 7.

18th District – J. H. Hardin, Washington College, Rt. 1; E.B. Mitchell, Limestone, Rt. 2.

Women were seeking the vote in 1918.  The suffrages (as the advocates of votes for women were called) had emerged in the South as an offshoot of the abolition of alcohol movement with the Women Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) playing a central role.  The Tennessee Equal Suffrage Association (TESA) and National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) lobbied the General Assembly for the right to vote in municipal and presidential elections.

In April 1918, their efforts were successful and both houses of the Tennessee Legislature passed a woman’s voting rights bill.  A lawsuit was immediately filed challenging its constitutionality but the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the law.  In 1920 Tennessee would play a critical role in the federal constitutional provision on woman’s suffrage.

The most serious outbreak of influenza  ( flu) in Tennessee history was also taking place.  There would be  7,721 recorded deaths from the disease in the influenza pandemic of 1918-19. What happened the state was part of a worldwide epidemic, multiplied in its effect by the dislocation and home-front demands of World War I.

November would bring another election and the end of World War I.  A second newspaper article will detail the events of this critical month in history.