Who would I like to have dinner with if it could be anyone from history? It would be my great-great-grandfather William Gannaway Brownlow.
Full of ‘fire and brimstone’ preaching and flinging strings of strong insults at anyone he didn’t like in his newspaper editorials, WGB was considered mild and generous by his family and friends. A dedicated Methodist who came to blows with a Baptist minister when they both were in the same town during their circuit-riding days, yet, WBG shared the meals his family brought to him while he was in jail for being a “traitor” to the Confederacy with a fellow “traitor” who was a Baptist minister. WGB HATED plantation owners, blaming them for the rebellion, and did whatever he could as Governor of Tennessee after the war to make life difficult for them, yet, he loaned a fellow newspaper editor large sums of money in an effort to save the man’s plantation. WGB was never paid back, nor did he try to get his money back. He believed slavery was alright, but believed in a “united states” even more and was staunchly Unionist.
I would love to have dinner with him and find out who he was. So many contradictions in his actions and the books and articles written about him since have all been filtered through a reputation colored by the ever-present feelings left by the Civil War.