Politics Makes for Strange Bedfellows

Jadon Gibson

Alfred A. “Alf” Taylor and Robert L. Taylor were brothers from Happy Valley in eastern Tennessee. Growing up they loved hunting, fishing and fiddling. As young men their interests turned to debating.

The similarities ended there as Alf became a republican and Robert a democrat. Alf Taylor was chosen in 1886 as the republican candidate for governor of Tennessee.

In an era when the party nominees were determined at a party convention instead of in a primary election, Robert’s name was bantered about, jokingly, as a possible opponent for his brother for Tennessee’s highest office. Ballot after ballot was called and finally on the 15th ballot Robert’s name was spoken in affirmation. He would be the democratic candidate for governor and oppose his brother.

Politics Makes for Strange Bedfellows

They agreed to a series of 41 debates to be held from one end of Tennessee to the other. In probably the only political race of its kind in history the brothers traveled together and roomed together and often shared the same bed.

“We are two roses from the same garden,” Robert said in the first vof the debates.

 The Republicans chose the red rose as their symbol in the campaign while the Democrats adopted the white rose in an election that became known as the ‘War of the Roses.’

“I have a very high regard for the Republican candidate,” Robert Taylor jested. “He is a perfect gentleman. He is my brother. I told him to come with me and I would furnish him with large crowds and that I would introduce him to society.”

After several appearances in smaller towns the entourage arrived in Chattanooga where they would give their most important speech to date. The two gubernatorial candidates were to make speeches from their hotel room balcony.

Alf worked on his speech in their room for nearly two hours before leaving to meet party officials and local bigwigs. After he exited their room Robert found his brother’s speech and put it in his coat pocket.

Later in the afternoon when Robert addressed the crowd, Alf was flabbergasted when he heard his younger brother, his opponent for governor of Tennessee, giving his speech. He had so carefully crafted it to be his own speech for the occasion.

“Great Scott,” Alf said under his breath. “He’s giving my speech word for word.

“It seems Robert is coming over to my way of thinking more with each passing day,” Alf began after determining his best advantage would be to keep his brother’s thievery to himself. “Unfortunately he is speaking from beneath the wrong banner. We can rectify that Robert. Raise your right hand and repeat after me, ‘I, Robert Taylor, hereby change my party affiliation to republican.’ Of course you will have to play second fiddle.”

 Both brothers laughed heartily and the attendees did likewise. Alf continued his talk with some humorous stories about his brother. His off-the-cuff remarks neutralized the crowd. 

“Well, we’ll not have a recurrence of this,” Robert thought to himself as he decided to introduce humor into his own campaign.

“My honorable opponent and I were born to the same mother and nursed at the same breast,” Robert said in Knoxville. “Unfortunately Alf’s milk soured on him and he became a republican. His disposition has remained sour like his politics.”

At their last meeting Robert summed up his feelings about their unusual campaign for governor.

 “After all of our struggles I still love my brother with an undying affection but politically, my friends, I despise him,” he boomed out before a large Nashville crowd.

The 36-year old Robert Taylor won the race for governor over his 38- year old brother and would later serve a second term.

As for Alf, he won three terms in the U.S. Congress and later teamed with his brother Robert on the lecture circuit as “Yankee Doodle and Dixie.”

Quite a few years later, in 1921 at the age of 72, the GOP nominated Alf Taylor as their candidate for governor. It met with some criticism in the press because of his advanced age so Alf countered during the campaign with stories about “Old Limber,” his aging foxhound who, “never loses the scent during the chase and always leads the pack.”

Tennesseans were able to relate to Alf Taylor’s campaign and elected him as their governor, a fitting conclusion to this story about Alf and Robert Taylor, the two happy brothers from Happy Valley. They were participants in the famed 1886 War of the Roses gubernatorial race. Although Robert won the race, Alf eventually became governor as well. copyright 2017 jadon gibson

Jadon Gibson is a widely read Appalachian writer from Harrogate, TN. His writings are both historical and nostalgic in nature and can be read periodically at bereaonline.com. Don’t miss a single segment!

A Voice for God – A voice for good

My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me. Three years out of college and a nine-hour drive from where I grew up, I had done alright in business but I “hadn’t set the woods on fire.” Married and with a young son it was time for me to make my mark selling insurance to professional people.

I had read all about Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, Napolean Hill’s Think and Grow Rich and others. I met Dr. Maxwell Maltz, the famous doctor, writer and plastic surgeon who was all-about one’s self-image and not living down to the image that others may have of you.

“I was born in Harlan County, Kentucky,” I said to Dr. Maltz upon meeting him after a talk he gave in St. Louis. “That’s alright young man,” he said. “You have every capability as the most gifted. What’s important is how you accept yourself.”

That was so powerful. When I put it on display along with a principle learned from Frank Bettger my successes changed immediately. Bettger was a talented young baseball player with a St. Louis Cardinal farm club but he was lazy.

“Frank, I’m gonna have to let you go because you just don’t have any pep,” his manager told him. You’re as talented as anyone in our league but you play like an old player.”

Bettger knew his manager was right and asked if he would keep him on for a bit longer and he would put energy into his game. He began playing like “a house afire” the very next day and never looked back. Like night and day his light was turned on and within several months he was called up to the majors.

Bettger suffered a career-ending injury and soon found himself failing in his new job of selling insurance. Once he recognized his problem was a lack of energy he corrected it and became one of the top salesmen in his company.

I mentioned an axiom to my father stating, “success comes to him that waiteth.” His come-back was apropos. “Success comes to him that waiteth provided he worketh like hell while he waiteth.” Touche Dad!

All of my studies and thought processes came together beginning on September 13, 1965. God answered my prayers. With pep and enthusiasm success followed. Beginning in 1966 I became a regular member of the Million Dollar Round Table. That was back when a million was a substantial sum.

Our good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me. He will answer your prayers. Accept Him as your Savior and keep Him in your heart! If He is with you, who can be against you!

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