Two Carter sons running for Tennessee Governor: Republican Alfred A. Taylor against brother Democratic Robert L. Taylor. Bob won 126,151 to 109,837 and served two terms as Governor, 1887-1891. Tennessee’s War of the Roses In 1886, brothers Alf and Bob Taylor, natives of the Elizabethton - Johnson City area, ran against each other for governor. Since it involved family members, like the famous military campaign in medieval England, the race was called “The War of the Roses.” The Taylor household had been divided since the boys were young. Their father, a Methodist minister, served in Congress as a Whig. But their mother was the sister of a Democratic Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives who became a Confederate senator from Tennessee (Landon Carter Haynes). During the Civil War, their father was a strong supporter of the Union. Their mother’s sympathies were with the South. Some would say the brothers were born into, brought up in, and destined for conflict. In June 1886, the Republicans met in Nashville and on the first ballot nominated Alf Taylor for governor. Two months later, the Democrats also met in Nashville. After fifteen ballots, they chose Alf’s brother, Bob, as their nominee. The brothers also decided to campaign together. The two often shared a room and even slept in the same bed. The first of forty-one debates was held in September in Madisonville. Bob declared, “I have a very high regard for the Republican candidate – he is a perfect gentleman because he is my brother.” In Chattanooga, a joint committee of Republicans and Democrats prepared a fine welcome. Then the brothers were allowed some time before each was to speak from their hotel balcony. Both brothers wanted to make the best speeches possible, and Alf had even prepared a totally new manuscript for the special occasion. Then he left the hotel briefly to visit friends. While Alf was visiting, Bob began his speech. Alf soon heard a familiar phrase. He listened a moment, then exclaimed, “Great Scott! Listen! He is quoting the text of my speech, word for word…” In fact, Alf’s brother was delivering a familiar and beautiful speech, including such carefully crafted lines as these: The illustrious dreamers and creators in the realm of music, the Mozarts, the Beethovens, the Handels, and the Mendelssohns, have scaled the purple steps of the heaven of sweet sounds, unbarred its opal gates and opened its holy of holies to the rapt ear of the world. In their wonderful creations of melody they have given a new interpretation and a sweeter tongue to nature and an audible voice to the music of the stars. Surely 2 humanity can never forget God or our civilization sink to a lower plane while their works endure. Alf rushed to their room but it was too late. The manuscript was gone. Bob had it, and he did not return it until he had read Alf’s entire speech to the crowd. Generally the Taylor brother candidates sought to entertain crowds with music and witty remarks, rather than confuse people with issues. Both played the fiddle. While Alf was a better fiddler, Bob usually had the sharper wit. On one occasion, Bob said that while they both were born of the same mother and nursed at the same breast, Alf’s milk soured on him and made him a Republican. In his last campaign speech at Blountville before the election, Alf told the crowd, “I say to you now that after all these eventful struggles I still love my brother as of old, with an undying affection – but politically, my friends, I despise him.” Bob was not to be outdone by Alf. He said: I thank God that it has been reserved for Tennessee to declare to the world that politics cannot sever the tender relations of brotherhood. I love the man who has borne the Republican standard as dearly as in the old days long ago when we slept side by side in the same trundle-bed and shared our youthful joys and griefs. I have never seen the hour that I would not willingly lay down my life to save him, nor the dawn of the day that I would not lay down my life to destroy his party!” Bob won by 13,000 votes. Alf, however, did not quit. The next election he won a seat in Congress where he served three terms. In 1921, he finally won a race for governor – when he was seventy-two!
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