A new book chronicling a pivotal moment in Tennessee’s political history is being provided to every library in the state, free of charge.

On Tuesday, Vanderbilt University Press announced that copies of Keel Hunt’s book, “Coup,” which details events surrounding the 1979 inauguration of Lamar Alexander as Tennessee governor, would be sent to more than 2,000 public and private middle and high schools, colleges and universities, and public libraries across the state. The book, published earlier this year, is based on more than 160 interviews compiled by Hunt on the subject.

Its subtitle is “The Day the Democrats Ousted Their Governor, Put Republican Lamar Alexander in Office Early and Stopped a Pardon Scandal.”


In a news release, Vanderbilt University Press was quick to say the distribution of the book was not politically motivated, as Alexander is currently seeking a third U.S. Senate term. Along with the publisher, a “bipartisan group” of donors has come together for the project, a news release said.

Although the process only took a matter of hours, the circumstances under which Alexander was sworn early into his first term as governor were unprecedented in state history. Democrats, along with their Republican opponents, worked together to oust outgoing Democratic Gov. Ray Blanton, who was revealed to be offering prison pardons for cash bribes during his final days in office.

On a website promoting the book, former Democrat Gov. Phil Bredesen says the book should be required reading for public officials.

“There was a time when government was willing to act,” Bredesen is quoted saying. “. 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.”

Alexander also has a comment on the book.

“What fascinates me 34 years later is how much I did not know about what happened until I read Keel Hunt’s book,” Alexander said.

Hunt, who was a reporter and editor for The Tennessean before joining Alexander’s 1978 gubernatorial campaign, also served as a speechwriter and coordinator in Alexander’s office when he was working as governor.

Hunt is scheduled to appear in Chattanooga on Sept. 19 to discuss his book at events being held by both the Chattanooga Bar Association and the Chattanooga Rotary Club.