Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Assassination in Middle Tennessee


While Looper sat in the Cumberland County lock-up, his political opponents and friends of Tommy Burks moved fast to have him removed from the ballot. They quickly filed an ouster suit naming several Putnam County landowners as plaintiffs, charging that Looper's mere arrest constituted moral ineptitude, one of several factors required for removal.

Despite her grief, Charlotte Burks also took action to prevent Looper from winning her husband's rightful place in the General Assembly. She mounted an aggressive write-in campaign for the Senate seat, and picked up nearly every supporter her husband had left.

"I have agreed to run a write-in campaign for the 15th District Senate seat," she told reporters after her husband's funeral. "It's what Tommy would have wanted."

Even Republicans endorsed Charlotte Burks' candidacy and sought to distance themselves from Looper.

"We did not recruit Mr. Looper to run for the state Senate or any other office," said Brad Todd, executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party. "We have not assisted his campaign in any material way, nor will we."

Normally apathetic citizens took part in the campaign, working door-to-door to educate voters about Charlotte's campaign. Stickers were printed to be affixed to ballots, handbills announcing the change were passed out and political ads were run in the local media.

Looper, for his part wasn't giving up, and continued to direct his campaign from his jail cell. A local radio station declined to accept a collect call from Looper in jail, but on consulting with its lawyer, found that accepting ads from just one side could result in legal trouble.

The next day, Looper called the station manager at his home and an ad schedule was set. The ads for Looper ran on the radio on Monday.

A Looper operative dropped off two ads the next day which did not address the Burks race at all, but instead attacked Bill Gibson, who Looper    believed was out to get him.

Looper spent the day of the election in the Cumberland County jail and, not surprisingly, was handily defeated by Charlotte Burks in the race for the Senate seat for which Tommy Burks was allegedly slain. Ironically, one the votes his alleged act cost him was his own: Looper had not voted early, and had not made arrangements for any absentee voting. In keeping with standard jail policy, inmates were not taken to the polls.

Charlotte outpolled Looper 25 to 1, winning 30,274 write in votes to Looper's 1,531 votes.

"She would have gotten more votes, Putnam County election administrator Nancy Boman told the media. "Some voters were just so determined to vote for her that they wrote her name in the first write-in box they came to. So she mistakenly got a few votes for governor and other offices."

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