published Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Interracial couple in Tennessee receives death threat

TURTLETOWN, Tenn. — Shards of glass from a broken coffee pot still sit in the coffee maker struck by a chunk of cinderblock that crashed through Ellis Weatherspoon’s window.

“Get out of town n —— or u die,” read the note taped to the portion of the block. It was signed “KKK.”

On June 13, as Weatherspoon entered the kitchen around midnight with his 3-year-old son, Elijah, the block came flying through the trailer’s side window, according to a Polk County Sheriff’s Office report. The block did not strike the 45-year-old Weatherspoon or his son.

Elijah is the son of Weatherspoon, who’s black, and 28-year-old Jennifer Weatherspoon, who’s white. The couple, who have been together for seven years, consider themselves married.

“At first I thought a box fell because I was packing things. I thought, ‘Maybe a box fell and some of my things broke,’” Jennifer Weatherspoon said. “When I turned the light on and actually looked, there was glass everywhere.”

Years ago, it would have been frowned upon for a black man to be in a relationship with a white woman. In Polk County, the Weatherspoons, who moved into their Turtletown trailer in February, feel that’s still the case.

“When we first moved here, they said, ‘We going to burn you out,’ but we didn’t pay them any mind,” Ellis Weatherspoon said.

There have been other incidents in the past five months, he said. He did not report those incidents to authorities because he didn’t take them seriously at the time, he said.

But the sheriff’s office is not classifying the cinderblock incident as a hate crime.

The office’s incident report categorizes the crime as an act of vandalism. On the report, motivations for the crime offer options such as racial, gender and religions. In this case, the report reads, “None.”

“If it is some kind of hate crime, then we will look into it and see if it needs to go that avenue,” Polk County Sheriff Bill Davis said Wednesday.

There is no state hate crime law that would make it illegal to commit crimes based on the offender’s bias for factors such as race, religion or sexuality.

Tennessee’s Civil Rights Intimidation Law can be used against anyone who “damages, destroys or defaces any real or personal property of another person with the intent to unlawfully intimidate another from the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured by the constitution or laws of the state of Tennessee.”

Davis said the case remains under investigation and that evidence has been sent to a lab at the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office and it will take about a week to get the results back. He said detectives were following up leads Wednesday.

On Wednesday, plastic lined the Weatherspoons’ window to cover the jagged hole. The couple now is afraid to sleep inside the trailer. They sleep in their truck, away from home.

There have been other incidents since they moved to Turtletown, including verbal threats made directly to Ellis Weatherspoon, he said.

Since the cinderblock incident, though, the couple said they have not seen increased deputy patrols near their home and they feel as if the sheriff’s office is not taking their situation seriously.

The night of the incident, deputies told him, “‘We don’t see anyone. We can’t do anything,’” Ellis Weatherspoon recalled.

The sheriff maintained that the case is being properly investigated.

“It’s still ongoing, and hopefully we’ll find out who this person is,” he said.

Davis said this is the first racial case that comes to his mind since he began working in Bradley and Polk counties in 2006.

According to the 2010 census, of Polk County’s 16,825 people, 50 are black and 215 are multiracial.

Drew Robinson, an assistant district attorney who oversees cases in Polk County, said the Weatherspoons “need to rest assured that we are doing something about it.”

Robinson, who is black, said he has never personally experienced any racism locally with the exception of a couple of defendants who were upset about prison sentences.

If there is enough evidence in this case and authorities apprehend a suspect after interviews, the appropriate charges would be filed, he said.

“We’re not going to let people get forced out of their homes or anything. We take that very seriously,” Robinson said.

The Weatherspoons had plans to move before the recent incident in hopes of finding work. Ellis Weatherspoon said he picks up odd jobs in the area, but has no steady work. The couple has no phone and is trying to scrape together enough money to move.

They moved to Turtletown because Jennifer Weatherspoon grew up in the area.

“Mostly because [of] my mom and daddy. They live three miles from here,” she said.

Some locals admitted it’s hard to be accepted in the area if you’re an outsider.

“A lot of them [locals] don’t like me because I’m from Vermont; I’m a Yankee,” said Doug Miner, a resident who has been in the area since 1996.

While Miner said he has never heard anyone make racist comments toward the few black families who live in the area, he wouldn’t be particularly shocked if they did occur.

“There’s some good ol’ boys around,” he said. “A lot of them run the rebel flag.”

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GlacierClipper said...

This is a sad incident. Many times the law enforcement agencies just seems to ignore events like this, until something more terrible takes place.

The Good Ole Boys; seems to be out of touch with reality and modern times.

June 16, 2011 at 7 a.m.
bigbearzzz said...

my favorite line in this article is this one:

But the sheriff’s office is not classifying the cinderblock incident as a hate crime.

really?!??!!? When does it become a hate crime?! When he's found at the end of a rope?! I would say this more than qualifies as a hate crime in my book or at least a crime with the intent to show hatred!

June 16, 2011 at 7:11 a.m.
hcirehttae said...

Let's be careful here. There's an element of theatre here that makes me question. A cinder block? How hard would that be to throw through a window without being detected, either before or after? No neighbors saw anything? No incident occurred before or afterward? No hard words or shoving match at the local Piggly Wiggly?

Who called the news media, the police or the couple? Let's just reserve judgment till we see which way this goes.

June 16, 2011 at 7:35 a.m.
moon4kat said...

This incident reminds me of the era recounted by Diane McWhorter in her book Carry Me Home, which is about Birmingham, AL during the 1950s and 1960s. I had hoped all white Southerners had grown beyond such petty, stupid, racist hatred -- and willful ignorance by officials and neighbors. Seems that may not be the case. I send best wishes to the couple, and hope they are allowed to live in peace.

June 16, 2011 at 8:38 a.m.
brokentoe said...

This may be the only time I'll admit to this, but I'm agreeing with Lib4 and taking the middle ground here.

June 16, 2011 at 8:57 a.m.
ceeweed said...

"Banjo's playing through the broken glass"

June 16, 2011 at 9:13 a.m.
phrasewrite said...

We will all get through this..

June 16, 2011 at 9:16 a.m.

L4F, I would agree with everything you said until my eyes glaze over the word "wigger." If you don't have a problem with interracial dating you should know not to use that word for goodness sakes. And I know political correctness matter little to you, but just my honest opinion as a black woman...

And suggesting this may or may not have been dreamed up is ridiculous. These people have a small child and they are being victimized and conveniently Tennessee has no hate crime laws??? Very nice. Who cares if Wildman burns the Confederate flag? That's his right and it's not illegal. However, tt's a very different experience watching a cross being burned on your front lawn... And the authorities you trust your safety to could care less to see you hanged like a strange fruit.

June 16, 2011 at 9:33 a.m.
Veritas said...

It's easy to discern, based on the crudeness and vulgarity of WILDMAN's comment, that he is a person of BELOW AVERAGE INTELLIGENCE. Perhaps the Yankee equivalent of the "cinderblock thrower".

June 16, 2011 at 9:34 a.m.

I suggested removal of wildman's comment. Hate for Hate is not a solution.

June 16, 2011 at 9:42 a.m.
chatttn said...

The couple now is afraid to sleep inside the trailer. They sleep in their truck, away from home. “We’re not going to let people get forced out of their homes or anything. We take that very seriously,” Robinson said.

Not forced from their home? I looks like that is EXACTLY the case. Those poor people having to deal with this. To top it all off it appears the police don't seem too concerned. Who knows, they may be behind it too. Nice!

June 16, 2011 at 9:52 a.m.
USA4ever said...

Wow! I had no idea that Polk County,TN was still in the trenches of such racism! It looked like such a nice county when we "Yankees" were spending so much of our hard-earned cash while on vacation there last year. While the area is beautiful and full of history, this news has been a deciding factor for us. We won't be back. EVER! Our Church travel group is quite large, we plan ahead and it was nice to visit Tennessee and especially the Hiwassee area after such a harsh winter up North. That being said, there are plenty of other beautiful areas in America that will be more than happy to welcome us and our tourist "Yankee" dollars.

After all this country has been through... terrorism from the crazies, devastation from storms, economic hardship.... now it seems some want to promote the KKK agenda (or those who would pose as such) to put your county and even the state of TN into further decline.

Keep your violence and hate, we'll take our love of our neighbors and a FREE America and yes, our money... where it is appreciated, without hidden or blatant racism, claiming to be loving Christians, too. How sad to see these reports in 2011.

June 16, 2011 at 10:22 a.m.

Same to u L4F and thanks for clarifying

June 16, 2011 at 10:43 a.m.
Jon8136 said...

Racism is wrong and has no reason to exist in this day and time.

June 16, 2011 at 11:16 a.m.
USA4ever said...

---Oh please, one incident and you think you're living in the movie "Mississippi Burning."

Cold and callous, nice! This is NOT just one incident, as you are so willing to put off... we DO read the lovely Rants sections folks post on Craigslist, city-data and elsewhere. Disgusting and far from "hospitable". We've been doing our homework as educated "Yankees" do. There used to be a sign in Polk County that said "If you're Black, you'd better turn back", so I guess that is a warning these folks missed.

Your "Southern Hospitality" is lacking terribly in most of your posts. Plenty offensive to others tho. Got all the answers, do you? No "threats" or "yuppies" here, just good old NY country folk who were raised colorblind. Huff Post, lmao, you assume alot for someone who knows nothing about me. We are NOT New York City or New Jersey or Philly, we don't live in any of those cities where some are obviously willing to accept and even expect issues in highly populated areas. We just aren't used to it where we were raised.

We are NOT your enemy, but seems you want us to be! We can still take you there in a NY minute when it comes to "pissing us off". How about stepping off the uppity, high horse and stand up to racism, maybe you will see things a bit differently if you do. Or clench tight on to it, matters not to me, it's your soul pal. Still not gonna get our cash and as for respect... you get what you give..

Just one more thing... if you don't think things like this get attention outside your town, guess again. It is shocking to those of us in the world who aren't desensitized to racism and hatred. Tourists included.

June 16, 2011 at 11:18 a.m.
chet123 said...



June 16, 2011 at 12:02 p.m.
frequency13 said...

"Years ago, it would have been frowned upon for a black man to be in a relationship with a white woman."

Frowned upon? Nice euphemism, Ms. Burger. There was a lot more than frowning going on if you care to read some history.

More accurately, you could inform/remind readers that interracial marriage was ILLEGAL in Tennessee until a 1967 Supreme Court decision (Loving v. Virginia) forced 16 (mostly southern) states to void their anti-miscegenation laws. So, it wasn't just "frowned upon", it was built into the legal system of our society. And just because it became legal, doesn't mean it doesn't continue to be the basis of violence and discrimination.

Attitudes are changing, as public opinion data show, but incredibly slowly in some parts. For example, a survey conducted THIS YEAR showed 46 percent of Mississippi Republicans thinking interracial marriage should once again be illegal.

June 16, 2011 at 12:06 p.m.
enufisenuf said...

wildboy, lets go on a dick cheney campfire, Ill bring the sticks and you be the marshmellow.

June 16, 2011 at 12:25 p.m.
chet123 said...


June 16, 2011 at 1:06 p.m.
FoodDude said...

And break.... Our differences are most likely cultural. North, South, who cares? We have about as much control over that as we do our physical features. You think I wanted to grow up with snow up to my $#@ instead of chillaxin' at the beach? hahaha I'm older now, shoveling snow hurts and so do those Northern taxes! Although there are trade-offs, like tornadoes, meh :-/

Basically I want to say we're from elsewhere and we fit in and are part of the community, we help others, we have something to offer in this Volunteer State that we live in!

@ USA4ever....I want to believe this is an isolated incident that happened. It is sometimes easy for us all to judge when we are put in a corner. I personally love living in TN, people are people wherever you go. There is really only one race, it's called human. So... How about we have a huge party!?! Bring on the food (potluck, please! someone bring lots of NY PIZZA, we'll roast a hog, OMG I can taste it already!), music(this could be a weekend thing, woot!), dancing (sorry, only rap dance I know is the Hip Pop, ouch lol) and maybe we can get to know each other as people. If you're gonna be a hater, don't show. Fairly simple. We're not really gonna be here all that long. Who's in? And Yes, I'll do just about anything to break bread with and enjoy the company of as many people as I possibly can before I leave this Good Earth!

June 16, 2011 at 1:13 p.m.
jayhay182 said...

This sounds like a high school prank that went way too far. I don't think there is really a KKK presence in that area anymore. I could be wrong but I don't keep up with that kind of stuff. But any threat should be taken seriously. I wish the family well and hope they can find the person responsible for making somebody feel uncomfortable in their own home.

June 16, 2011 at 1:20 p.m.
USA4ever said...

@FoodDude Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. You are right about breaking bread and and the kids really did like the whitewater, but Florida is the choice this year. Maybe we will change our mind next year. If we do, we'll bring lots of pizza and hard rolls :-)

@L4F I didn't know this was the place for your debate, I thought it was for public opinion. It's the triggers of using "Yankee" and "wigger" and the political droll "shock value" that rubs me the wrong way about you personally.

Besides flipping the script. You may re-read my post stating "some' as opposed to you stating "all" and where I specifically included the statement "now it seems some want to promote the KKK agenda (or those who would pose as such)".

You hate Yankees and agree with segregation and want guns in every hand, I get it. I've read your political blog, very enlightening... I can accept you for who you are. I don't hate you and this is simply one of those times when it's best to just "steer clear" of each other. Maybe if we communicated better we could find something good we have in common and build on that. But until that day comes...

Peace to all.

June 16, 2011 at 2:36 p.m.
HannaBeckman said...

The Polk County Sheriff is 100% on not jumping to the opinion that this is a hate crime. Consider that it could be Ellis Witherspoon himself doing this. Look at the far out facts(circumstances and then the odds) of the event. READY????? Ellis and son JUST happened to enter the kitchen at MIDNIGHT? and at !!!!THAT EXACT TIME!!!,AT MIDNIGHT MIND YOU, A BRICK WITH KKK note is tossed through window!!!LOL!!!HHMMMMMMMMmmmm???? So someone is waiting out the outside at pitch dark MIDNIGHT!!! for him to ,just happen to go to kitchen. So the KKK person would wait all night??? THis jerko Ellis is scamming!!! $100.00 to anyones $1.00 the sherrif has come up with the same *solution.Toss this sorry piece of trash in jail for filing a false police report,then file child abuse charges because of him bringing the boy into all of this. Check out his deadbeat status of no job, debts and monies owed to people, and I bet he will have a background of doing this same crap!!!

June 16, 2011 at 2:51 p.m.
Typical said...


By Indians comment above you have shown you all are hillbilly white trash that thinks its 1925.

Polk County is THE MOST CORRUPT area anywhere. Locals know the police favor and allow certain individuals do what they want. They argue with you if your not in there "club" Theres voting issues there even locals will tell you theve been paid to vote certain ways. That area should be investagated by the FEDS. Bill Davis needs to OPEN his eyes and get rid of his Good Ole Boys before the feds can his ASS ! The end of small town mayberry may very well be coming to a crossroads. Wether this guy did this had someone do it or it truley was a criminal act its obvious that its a hate crime. COMMON SENSE MR DAVIS ! Funny how the police didnt do anything and now that the news is all over this everyone is talking now LOL Small Town Hillbillies LOL WAKE UP ITS THE YEAR 2011 !!!

June 16, 2011 at 3:48 p.m.
jayhay182 said...

WOW Hanna! Sounds like someone has been watching too much Law & Order and Judge Judy. I hope you never become a CSI in real life and just stick to sitting on your couch and watching Matlock. A man reports that a brick was thrown through his window and you come to the conclusion that he must have done this himself. Well Inspector Gadget, I'd really like to see the detective work you've done to back that up. I'm not saying that something like that couldn't happen but you are making yourself sound like a looney by spouting off crazy theories without any proof or evidence.

June 16, 2011 at 4:21 p.m.
xsiveporsche said...

usa4ever,If you think the south is so racial why do you keep coming back. Personally I am a damn Yankee. I moved south and will never go back. If you do not want to come back to Tennessee please do us all a favor and don't. We really do not want someone like you who thinks that their opinion is the only right one. We are not backwards here. yes the good ole boys do like to have some fun and what they did was wrong but it happens everywhere in this country, not just in the south. So with your outlook why don't you just go to California instead, It seems to be where you belong with your high opinion of yourself.

June 16, 2011 at 4:27 p.m.
nowfedup said...

Yep a note with KKK on it is not a hate crime, neither was destruction of equipment at site where Mosque being built. We have seen peoples home's torched, then they were beaten for speaking out against corruption in TN that reached all the way to Nashville. Common practice in TN to simply terrorize and drive out anyone that does not go along or fit what the ignorant see as ideal citizens. Amusing how some, AKA 1950's argument, now claim "well maybe he threw block". Seems same ole cowardly folks still cling to their ignorant ways, No wonder Beast rated TN as most corrupted in nation and it's education levels at bottom of heap. TN is in truth a very backward and terrorized state and some of the posts more then prove ignorant cowards and racists, one in same still alive and well in TN. Gov's office should handle this one as corrupted sheriff "no hate crime", he thinks KKK is a country club membership?

June 16, 2011 at 4:48 p.m.
rt said...

The investigation needs to center around whether whomever threw the cinder block was racist, or just not a fan of interracial relationships....Either way, hate crime or terrorism laws would apply, but the racist/interracial relationship distinction should be made.

June 16, 2011 at 4:58 p.m.
01centare said...

I hope the couple is telling the truth. Making false allegations about racism is as bad or worse when people make false allegations about being raped. It does great harm to people who have been or will become actual victims of those type crimes.

It would be disturbing for what is alleged to have happened to this couple to be true in 21st century America. However, I'd equally hate for the story to turn out to be fabricated.

June 16, 2011 at 6 p.m.
ann said...

well someone some where is trying to get the race card played here,it is bad but every race is at one time been called names and tried to be run off,so lets don't try to get carried away with all this,we have come a long way and yet have a long way to go but fascism runs both ways and for all colors and races so lets all get alone after all we live here together

June 16, 2011 at 6:56 p.m.
enufisenuf said...

I didnt think you would play with big boys, wildboy, your still welcome to come camping with me and try burning flags in my camp. Doubt you have the cahoneas to put your money where your piehole is. Keyboard coward.

June 16, 2011 at 7:13 p.m.
NoMyth said...

Only an ignorant fool would think twice about a bi-racial relationship. If those people are happy, that is great and let them be. Unfortunately, Tennessee ranks near the top among all states in the percentage of ignorant people (it's a close race with Alabama and a few others), and it is an embarrassment to the State and the entire country. To follow up on the banter above, these embarrassing acts do include flying the rebel flag. No thoughtful, educated, well-intentioned, patriotic American would ever consider flying a rebel flag.

June 16, 2011 at 8:04 p.m.
hambone said...

In the demographics of eastern Polk County you will find that Mr Witherspoon is the only black man living in Turtletown, Ducktown and Copperhill area and possibly the only one in 60 years.

I don't live there but I know the area's reputation. If I were him I wouldn't have ever moved there.

June 16, 2011 at 8:09 p.m.
Typical said...

INDIAN, I could care less about Polk County. My point is you all live in a closed world. Your a very uneducated person ( No Surprise ) and where you live offers nothing but a dollar store and a hardees. Who cares what you good ole FAT boys think. Go burp and fart there and KEEP it there !

June 16, 2011 at 8:43 p.m.
nowfedup said...

Wonder why the feds are not looking into this, but in this region they are not overly active, rumors are they trade off looking other way so areas allow them to dump off some in their "Care" here., Know many that spoke to feds pleading for help and was told "We are not aware of any problems in area". A guy man had his property destroyed, tractors tore down buildings, pulled up water lines, and dead dogs hung in trees not many years back. NO fed involvement and no issue by local sheriffs, wonder why feds so silent about all that goes on in this region concerning rights. A trade off just might be true.

June 17, 2011 at 9:24 a.m.
SeaMonkey said...

as a former resident of chicago i can tell that some of the most backwards, racist, bigoted and hateful people i've ever run across reside on the south side and west side of chicago. it's not just a southern thing, believe me.

regarding the incident, the authorities should go after those guilty swiftly and with extreme prejudice. that can't be tolerated.

incidents like this are sometimes ignored because of how often the charge of racism and the label "hate crime" are tossed around routinely and without any basis.

while growing up in the chicago area i was roughed up twice and robbed/punched once.

i didnt' think of them as hate crimes, but rather as just crimes..........even though "i'm going to kick your white ass you mother&^%$&"........made it pretty loud and clear what they thought of me.

June 17, 2011 at 10:48 a.m.
SeaSmokie59er said...

I've lived/worked all across the wonderful nation of ours and the majority of hatred/racism that 'I' have experieced has been in the south. Ider and Yankeetown still haven't reached the 20th century.

June 17, 2011 at 11:30 a.m.
sage1 said...

Well SeaSmokie, I've worked construction in 42 states in the past 30 years and I can't see how you missed it. Racism is alive and well all over the USA and all over the world. Here in the USA it's thrown at the white race most of the time, (even to describe those that didn't vote for Obama) but it's just as alive and well in all races, whether white, black, yellow, red or brown.

June 17, 2011 at 11:32 a.m.
Momus said...

Great point L4F. Just think blacks where lynched for looking at white women, now it's just a brick thru the window for living together. Houses burned, churches bombed, water-cannons, dogs etc. Old news. Now adays if you hang a noose, you get your a$$ kicked. We have come a long way.

June 17, 2011 at 2:35 p.m.
chet123 said...

SHOUT UP INDIAN.....DONT GET SO EXCITED ABOUT GUNS. ARE YOU NUTS..stop lying through your teeth fool...there's mixed children in polk county.....HAVE BEEN FOR OVER 30YEARS IN KNOW FOR A FACT!

June 17, 2011 at 3:08 p.m.
chet123 said...


June 17, 2011 at 3:12 p.m.

LOL @ Chet... don't let them bother you so. Let the good ol boys stay where they are. As long as they stay away from modern society they aren't our problem. They will eventually inbreed themselves into oblivion.

June 17, 2011 at 3:38 p.m.

Ouch... did I touch a nerve Indian? With a name like that I would assume you have dark skin. That's misleading. I imagine you being paler than an Indian. I would love to come to one of those meetings, dear, but I have a feeling I would feel a tad out of place. You guys go ahead and stay in the mountains. I'm sure you're doing the world a favor solving world issues at your podunk weekly meetings... Lemme guess... you must be on sheet-washing duty. Is that why you're so sensitive darling?

June 17, 2011 at 4:33 p.m.
Typical said...

UPDATE: Just heard that this couple is splitting up and there lanlord pulled a gun on Mr. Witherspoon last night and went to jail. Wow was it the lanlord that threw the block trying to get Mr. Witherspoon to leave and now he took it further ? Things that make you go hummmmmm

June 25, 2011 at 11:17 p.m.
pctwang said...

Just had to post, after reading all the messages, that I am from Polk County. Born and raised and very proud of it. I am not ashamed of where i'm from or how i was raised. I was raised to love all people. Regardless of skin color, religous beliefs, or where they may be from. I have read countless remarks about the south, particulary Tennessee, about being corrupt and I just have to ask. Name one state that isn't? There is corrupt people and government everywhere. Not just here. How you look on this situation is all in how you were raised. I know both Ellis and Jennifer personally, my daughter would have attended school with their son this year, and I love them both very much. What gives anyone any right to judge based on color? Race? You people have turned a very hurtful situation into a drama filled pissing match between the North and South. Who's better? Smarter? Less Corrupt? We should all be embracing life and trying to help our neighbors. Not bashing them.

As for the comments about the "good ole boys" They do exist. I know that but there are some that fly that flag not for racism but for culture. Because that's their history. Who is to say that they can't have that?

June 30, 2011 at 10:35 p.m.
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