FIELD OFFICE ESTABLISHED
The FBI opened the Knoxville, Tennessee, Field Office on May
1, 1937. The first location for the office was in the HAMILTON
NATIONAL BANK Building in Knoxville, and six Special Agents were
originally assigned to this office. The Knoxville Field Office
and its employees have investigated a variety of cases through
the years. These cases, some of which are described below, illustrate
the dedication of these employees in providing for the safety
and protection of the citizens of Eastern Tennessee.
1930s - 1940s
One of the earliest cases investigated by the Knoxville Office was the kidnaping of Chattanooga Police Officer O. O. GRIFFIN. JOE POWELL, JAMES POWELL, DOROTHY KEY, and FLORENCE LONDON, who were identified as suspects in the kidnaping, were arrested June 27, 1937, in Tampa, Florida.
In November 1941, the Knoxville Office participated in the investigation of the murder of Mrs. JAMES HEADDEN, ARLENE DILLARD GLOWAN, and Mrs. GLOWAN's two year old son. The investigation led to the conviction and eventual execution of JAMES HEADDEN in March 1943.
By September 1942, the Knoxville Field Office had established its first two Resident Agencies (RAs). These satellite offices were located in Johnson City and Chattanooga, Tennessee.
July 1944, Special Agents assigned to the Knoxville Office arrested
WALDERMAR OTHMER and charged him with espionage. OTHMER admitted
that he had been trained in espionage in Germany in 1940, and
had engaged in espionage in 1940 and 1941. On July 31, 1944,
he pled guilty and was sentenced in the Federal Court of Norfolk,
Virginia, to twenty years for Violation of the Espionage Statute.
1950s - 1960s
KENNETH ALLEN KITTS, a notorious bank robber and escape artist, was arrested by Special Agents of the Knoxville Office on September 21, 1951. KITTS was apprehended at a road house named "THE THREE GABLES," near Fayetteville, Tennessee. Agents from the Memphis Field Office also participated in the arrest.
On February 25, 1959, Knoxville Field Office Special Agents arrested LONAS RAY CAUGHORN, a six time prison escapee. On January 3, 1959, CAUGHORN had escaped from Georgia's BUFORD ROCK QUARRY PRISON, along with another inmate, by tricking a guard into letting them go free in a prison-guard truck.
In August 1960, Civil Rights charges were filed against Chief Deputy Sheriff GEORGE SARTIN and his brother JOHN, a Deputy Sheriff, both of Roane County, Tennessee. The complainant, WILLIAM THOMAS FERGUSON, gave a detailed statement to Special Agents of the Knoxville Office alleging that he was arrested without a warrant and driven through five counties, during which time he was beaten and threatened. The subjects also forced him to falsely state that he had rigged voting machines in a local election. Both SARTINS were convicted on December 4, 1962.
On March 4, 1964, JAMES RIDDLE (JIMMY) HOFFA was convicted in United States District Court, Chattanooga, Tennessee, of jury tampering after an investigation by the Knoxville Field Office. JIMMY HOFFA later disappeared on the evening of July 30, 1975. His body was never found, and he is presumed to be dead.
UNITED AIRLINES Flight 823 crashed near Parrottsville, Tennessee, at approximately 6:15 p.m. on July 9, 1964. The crash killed all thirty-nine passengers and crew members. Special Agents from the Knoxville Field Office were immediately dispatched to investigate. Evidence indicated that the airplane had caught fire prior to the crash.
On November 26, 1967, LOWELL BAILEY, a policeman at the METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT, Washington, D.C., was shot and killed while he was parked on Unaka Mountain near Erwin, Tennessee. His wife, BEVERLY BAILEY, was kidnaped by the assailant and sexually assaulted. Special Agents from the Knoxville Field Office entered the investigation when the local law enforcement agency indicated the possibility that the victim had been taken into North Carolina and assaulted following her abduction in Tennessee. Special Agents identified the murderer as EARL HILL, JR. who was later located and apprehended by Special Agents from the Savannah, Georgia Field Office.
On September 7, 1968, Special Agents from the Knoxville Field Office arrested two fugitives who had conducted a violent crime spree in Alabama and Tennessee. The two fugitives had robbed a family at gunpoint and raped a 26 year old woman who had given birth two weeks earlier. The two subjects were armed, had previously shot a police officer, and had escaped capture by driving a car at police officers who had been attempting to make an arrest.
November 14, 1969, OLAN MILLS, II, a Chattanooga, Tennessee,
millionaire, was accosted by a gunman who kidnaped his pregnant
wife and their two children and demanded that Mr. MILLS pay $10,000.00
for their release. Mr. MILLS contacted the Knoxville Field Office
Resident Agency at Chattanooga, Tennessee. During the investigation,
the getaway vehicle was identified by Special Agents, who then
safely recovered the kidnap victims and apprehended the kidnappers.
Two heavily-armed bank robbery fugitives were arrested by Special Agents from the Knoxville Field Office on January 13, 1973. The two were wanted for the robbery of two banks in Indiana. During one of the robberies, the subjects, who were armed with a sub- machine gun and a carbine, shot and killed a law enforcement officer.
On December 22, 1976, six subjects suspected of robbing the UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVE CENTER ARMORY, Knoxville, Tennessee, were arrested as a result of an extensive investigation conducted by the Knoxville Field Office. Weapons stolen during the robbery were also recovered.
An investigation initiated by the Knoxville Field Office in July 1976, culminated in a thirty-five count indictment of JOHN M. BEELER, the Chairman of the Knox County Board of Commissioners. The Commissioner was accused of selling his vote regarding a landfill site to a company which stood to benefit for an up-front payment of $30,000.00 and a total of $87,000.00 in payments from January 1973 to October 1975. Commissioner BEELER was found guilty on all thirty-five counts of the indictment.
On April 9, 1977, the CITIZENS NATIONAL BANK OF SEVIERVILLE located in Kodak, Tennessee, was robbed of more than $28,000.00 by two armed subjects, who killed three bank employees and one customer in an execution-style murder. As a result of an extensive investigation conducted by all employees of the Knoxville Field Office, both subjects were arrested within twenty-four hours, even though there were no witnesses to the robbery and murders.
On June 10, 1977, JAMES EARL RAY, the convicted assassin of MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., and LARRY EDWARD HACKER, a convicted bank robber and an associate of þTop Tenþ fugitive WILLY FOSTER SELLERS, along with four other inmates, escaped from the BRUSHY MOUNTAIN STATE PRISON, Petros, Tennessee. Another inmate attempted to escape but was immediately captured by prison guards. The Knoxville Field Office immediately commenced an investigation. One escapee was captured near Flat Fork, Tennessee, after he was flushed out by a TENNESSEE HIGHWAY PATROL helicopter. LARRY EDWARD HACKER was located sleeping on a church pew at about 2:00 a.m. on June 12, 1977, and was arrested by a Knoxville Field Office Special Agent and two deputies from the Anderson County, Tennessee SHERIFF's DEPARTMENT. Another escapee was captured in New River, Tennessee, shortly before midnight. On June 13, 1977, JAMES EARL RAY was located by a bloodhound and captured near New River, Tennessee, about eight and one-half miles from the prison, shortly before 2:00 a.m. The fifth escapee was captured by the OAK RIDGE, TENNESSEE, POLICE DEPARTMENT later in the day. The last escapee was located after being tracked by two bloodhounds and was captured in New River, Tennessee, on June 14, 1977.
From May 1982 to October 1982, a Worldþs Fair was held in Knoxville, Tennessee. The event, known as "Expo '82," was a six-month World's Fair with the theme of "Energy." The Knoxville Field Office provided pre-planning assistance to the KNOXVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT. The FBI, along with numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, provided security for the event. There were approximately 1,500 foreign participants attending the event, representing twenty-two foreign countries. During the World's Fair, a French artifact on loan from the LOUVRE MUSEUM, Paris, France, which was on display at the French Pavilion, was stolen. As a result of the Knoxville Field Office's investigation, the artifact was recovered and returned to the French Pavilion on June 30, 1982.
In January 1983, the Knoxville Field Office initiated an investigation code-named "Mayban," a major white-collar crime investigation into the failure of several area banks and savings and loan associations. After a three year investigation, six subjects were indicted in connection with a bankruptcy fraud matter. The subjects were charged with conspiracy, bankruptcy fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud in relation to the failure of a twenty-six bank conglomerate, with assets totaling $3 billion dollars. Those convicted of the charges included JACOB FRANKLIN BUTCHER and CECIL H. BUTCHER.
On March 27, 1985, in a joint operation carried out by the SWAT Teams of the Atlanta and Knoxville Field Offices, BRUCE CARROLL PIERCE was arrested in Rossville, Georgia, a suburb of Chattanooga, for the slaying of ALLEN BERG, a radio talk-show host in Denver, Colorado. At the time of his arrest, PIERCE was armed with three pistols and had just gotten out of a van filled with grenades, bombs, machine guns, automatic weapons, dynamite, blasting caps, and a crossbow and arrows.
May 1986, eleven principals of a narcotics trafficking group
were indicted as a result of an undercover operation by the Knoxville
Field Office. The subjects were members of the Peacemakers Motorcycle
In February 1990, former Blount County Sheriff AVERY MILLS was convicted on 18 counts of the Hobbs Act. Appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court were denied on September 9, 1991. MILLS had received payments for providing protection to illegal prostitution activities in Blount County, Tennessee.
In March 1990, the Knoxville Field Office began an undercover operation, utilizing an undercover police officer (MICHAEL LLOYD RECTOR), in the investigation of ROY LEE CLARK. CLARK was suspected of operating a major commercial auto theft business throughout the southeastern part of the United States. In April, 1990, Special Agents executed a search warrant on the business premises of ROY LEE CLARK. Special Agents assigned to the Knoxville Field Office were assisted by the TENNESSEE HIGHWAY PATROL, the KNOX COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, the KNOXVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT, and the NATIONAL AUTO THEFT BUREAU. The search resulted in the removal of stolen goods valued in excess of $700,000.00. On May 31, 1990, MICHAEL LLOYD RECTOR, the undercover police officer was murdered in the front yard of his residence by an assailant firing numerous rounds at close range with a .9 mm semi-automatic pistol. ROY LEE CLARK was indicted on October 23, 1991, for the murder of RECTOR and was later convicted of that crime.
In November 1990, DAVID ALLEN COLLINS, a former election coordinator for the state of Tennessee, was convicted for his role in a conspiracy scheme to rig a bid for a state contract for the production and sales of ballot boxes to be utilized in state elections. Other subjects in this case, including former Tennessee Election Commissioner TOMMY POWELL, along with ROBERT EDWARD LONG and JACK RICHEY RODEN, pled guilty to charges in this matter.
July 12, 1994, FOAMX COMPANY, Morristown, Tennessee, pled guilty
to a violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
(an environmental crime). This case was based on the illegal
disposal of the chemical methylene chloride by the FOAMX COMPANY.
The company was fined $750,000 and paid $8.25 million dollars
to clean up the hazardous chemical.
The Knoxville Field Office continues to aggressively investigate violations of federal law in Eastern Tennessee. If you are aware of violations of federal law, including those in the areas of white collar crime, public corruption, drugs, civil rights or violent crimes, please contact the Knoxville Office of the FBI.