About the Book
“Every elected official in America should read it.”
–Philip Bredesen, former Governor of Tennessee
COUP is the story of the extraordinary 1979 ouster of Tennessee’s Governor Ray Blanton by senior leaders of his own political party. Based on 163 interviews, Keel Hunt’s COUP describes one fateful day when collaborators came together from opposite sides of the political aisle and – with no precedent in American history - reached agreement to stop what one FBI agent called “the state’s most heinous political crime in half a century” – 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 U.S. Senator from Tennessee), agreed to oust Blanton from office before another night fell. It was a maneuver unique in American political history.