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.

Coup News

  • Michael Nelson’s review of Coup
    December 16, 2013

    “…told with page-turning intensity” Michael Nelson is Fulmer Professor of Political Science, Rhodes College and Senior Fellow, Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia.     See Michael Nelson’s full review of Coup in The Claremont Institute Review of Books.

  • Gail Kerr: Southern Festival of Books doesn’t need midway
    October 8, 2013

    The Tennessean It’s got everything except a Ferris wheel. This weekend, Nashville celebrates the annual Southern Festival of Books in the space tucked between the downtown library and the state Capitol. Go hungry. Go with the kids. Go to meet writers you’ve loved for years and to discover new favorites. If you’ve never been, this […]

  • ‘Coup’ tells inside story of ‘impeachment, Tennessee style’
    September 2, 2013

    Kingsport Times-News By Hank Hayes It was a political action unlike any other then or since in Tennessee or even in the United States. Described by political insiders as “impeachment, Tennessee style,” the event has now been documented in the newly released “Coup: The Day the Democrats Ousted Their Governor, Put Republican Lamar Alexander in […]

  • coup-lamar

    This is a story about men of different political parties who found ourselves in a place none of us wanted to be and how we worked together over a few hours to do something unprecedented but necessary that none of us wanted to do. What fascinates me 34 years later is how much I did not know about what had happened until I read Keel Hunt’s book.

    Lamar Alexander
    U.S. Senator
  • coup-philip

    There was a time when government was willing to act. Keel Hunt was a key player on one such occasion in Tennessee and tells the story with elegance and precision. This book tells about government doing what’s needed–quickly, without hand-wringing and without seeking partisan advantage. Every elected official in America should read it.

    Philip Bredesen
    Former Governor of Tennessee
  • coup-fred

    Keel Hunt gives us a fascinating account of an important moment in Tennessee history. It’s a story of a time when Tennesseans of both parties came together to resolve a crisis that had rocked the state.

    Fred Thompson
    Former U.S. Senator