Letters of the Law

Bipartisan Efforts of ‘COUP’ Should Be Inspiration for Today

Many thanks to the TBJ for publishing the review [September 2013] by Judge Walter C. Kurtz and Chancellor Ellen Lyle of Keel Hunt’s book, COUP: The  Day the Democrats Ousted Their Governor, Put Republican Lamar Alexander in Office Early, and Stopped a Pardon Scandal.

The reviews certainly brought back, as I am sure the book will do as well, those incredible and exciting days in January 1979 when one of the most extraordinary transfers of power in our nation’s history took place. I was at that time a second-year law student, employed on an allegedly part-time basis by then-Nashville-Davidson-County-Metro Public Defender Kurtz, residing within a few blocks of the office where then-Gov. Blanton was  busily signing commutations and pardons, and the Supreme Courtroom where Chief Justice Joe Henry administerd the oath of office to Lamar Alexander, surrounded by the Democratic leaders of the Tennessee legislature.

Those were heady and electric times, in which the bipartisan efforts of both state and federal officials achieved a swift and just result. The brave and public-spirited actions of those involved showed Tennessee at its best; a look back on that time, in Mr. Hunt’s book, should serve as inspiration for all of us today.

— Kenneth J. Ries, Roanoke, Va.