Don't Go Back to Cookeville


I cannot let a reference to Cookeville, Tennessee go by without crudely mentioning one of my favorite articles, and the only I ever wrote for Salon, about a muckraking Beverly Hills journalist named Geoff Davidian who by total chance got sucked into Cookeville's murky Good-Old-Boy politics, including wild tales of drug dealing, cover-ups and possible murder, and as a result launched an angry local newsletter/website thing called The Putnam Pit, named after the county. One of Davidian's many colorful quotes in there was: "This is not funny. I'm not making this up. People are dead. People are DEAD." Then less than two weeks later, someone was dead—State Senator Tommy Burks, who was killed (at least that's what the conviction says) by his opponent in the upcoming election, a cat named Byron "Low Tax" Looper.

I visited Cookeville twice after the Burks murder, got roped into all kinds of Davidian shenanigans, listened to a lot of locals reckon that Looper would have to be convicted "even if he was innocent," and filled enough notebooks to write two books. Needless to say, I may have written a total of two blog posts…. At any rate, the first story is still good for a chuckle.

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  1. Reminds me of my experiences poking around Chattanooga in 1999, though in that case I didn’t even get a proper article out of it. Or, at least, I never wrote an article with the weird stuff in it.

    I’ve still got the interview tapes somewhere, though.

  2. I’m a native of the Nashville, TN, area. Most of my high school class, who was able/endowed, went to Tennessee Tech in Cookeville.
    I have a few kinky memories of the area, but have earlier promisedto cease posting.

  3. Is this the old Buford Pusser territory?

  4. Pusser’s down near Savannah. And oh my god you don’t want me to start telling you stories about THAT place….


    Cookeville is where the police shot that family pet during a routine traffic stop. Boy, talk about the inability to control your firepower.

    Got my own Savannah, TN story from last week. Stayed in a national chain-brand hotel while visiting Shiloh. Looked out my window at 3:30am to see the middle-aged overweight desk clerk performing fellatio in the back of the parking lot.

  6. Wow. After living in Colorado Springs for the last ten years within two months of moving to Cookeville I see it mentioned in H&R. FWIW, since I’ve been back a fellow killed two of his next door neighbors over a fence dispute and a local man killed his daughter because she wouldn’t sell him her used Toyota truck for the price he wanted. So really in proportion, this story isn’t the most exciting and ridiculous thing that’s gone on by a wide margin. And Cookeville is the cream of the crop of the little towns around her, IMHO.

    God, it’s good to be home!

  7. dionis — I recall in Savannah being surprised that almost every hotel worker I saw came from the Subcontinent….

  8. the Subcontintent…

    You mean Florida, right?

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