A Ray of Blanton Sunshine?

Mary Pom ClaiborneOur Town Readers

If you like true crime stories, this one will knock you out. It involves paid pardons and murder-for-hire at the highest level of government in Tennessee. Back in the late 1970s, a charismatic governor with a quick smile was handing out pardons at a shocking rate.

Ray Blanton, a Democrat, had been in office only one term. Lamar Alexander, a Republican, was the governor-elect, waiting in the wings to be sworn in at the appropriate time. Then new information came in that Blanton was set to release some of the worst criminals in the prisons – among them, they suspected, was James Earl Ray.

What happened next was unprecedented. Some call it a coup and others call it a bipartisan victory. Regardless, it shocked the country.

Over four decades later, WVLT’s Brittany Tarwater tells the whole story in a documentary called “A Tennessee Waltz: Ray Blanton’s Last Dance.”

We’re showing it at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 25, at the East Tennessee History Center (601 S. Gay Street) followed by a discussion with Tarwater, veteran journalist Tom Humphrey, and Attorney General at the time, Hal Hardin. Humphrey and Hardin were on the frontlines of the events of that year.

This screening and discussion are part of Knox County Public Library’s Truth and Consequences Symposium to explore news and information in today’s world. With AI, deep fakes, online influencers and media disruption in today’s world, how does the truth come out?

Join us this week to learn more about information integrity, social media and democracy. Mary Pom Claiborne is assistant director for marketing, communications and development for Knox County Public Library


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *