Memories of George Nipper

Contributed by Mary Glover.  Thanks, Mary!

THEY LET GEORGE DO IT

By  B. Henson Purcell

Pub. Tues. June 15, 1971 Daily American

          During a time when the Mine Workers Union and the Progressive Miners Union were In a battle for control of the vast Franklin County coal industry and the thousands of jobs it supported, he was a virtual one man police department.

            Downtown was often a seething mass of humanity, milling about in an ominous atmosphere of potential violence.  By-standing pedestrians were frequently obsessed with the fearful impression that one side or the other was about to launch a "TET" offensive that would result in a shopper district blood bath.  The situation was much like that which American GIs have faced in Vietnam in their inability to distinguish friends from foes.  There was no way of knowing, when you stopped on the street to chat with an acquaintance, whether you were talking with a UMW or a PMA.  They were all your neighbors.

           Then when the town appeared about ready to erupt in mass violence, a lone man would march into Main Street from City Hall with a machine gun cradled under his arm, and stroll grim-faced and resolutely up and down the people-crowded main drag and, almost instantly, the streets would be cleared and potential combat area would become a demilitarized zone.  The procedure may not have been constitutional, but it was effective.  The man with the machine gun was George Nipper.

          He donned a policeman's uniform and eventually became the Chief of Police. He was as a policeman, fearless and determined, operating most of the time as a one-man combat force who because he carried the "big difference" and was always combat-ready, seldom became involved in combat.

          Chief Nipper frequently "cooled the town" in a matter of minutes when it was the on the verge of riotous eruption.  It was a perilous time during which opposing sides in the mine union confrontation, both armed to the teeth, resorted to frequent mass meetings as a means of communicating their stories to the rank and file.  Such meetings were eventually banned by both the Franklin County sheriff and the West Frankfort police.

          During this time of fearful community unrest, I left home early each morning and went by the City hall on my way to the Daily American, to check with police what had transpired during the night in the way of news.  On one such occasion, I found Chief Nipper busily cleaning and oiling his guns.  he greeted me with cordiality, that characterized our relationship.  One of the warring groups had scheduled a mass meeting in West Frankfort in defiance of the police ban.  Circulars, announcing the meeting for the following weekend had been distributed.

          "What about the mass meeting that has been scheduled for next Sunday," I asked.

          "You know about the order," Nipper said without looking up.

          "Yes", I said, "I know, but they have a meeting advertised for Sunday.  What are you going to do about it?"

          His face was flushed as he looked up for the first time from his gunswabbing and said:  "there ain't gonna be no By God meetin," and there wasn't.

          I still give George Nipper credit for the fact that there were not more casualties on the West Frankfort front in the bitter union feud.

          George retired from the police force in more peaceful times and made for himself a life of blissful existence.

          He embraced the Christian religion rather late in life and joined the Third Baptist Church, where he became an active, dedicated, ordained Deacon.  He was, still later, a devout member of the First Baptist Church.

          I could, somehow, never erase from my mind, as I listened to George Nipper pray in church, the mental picture of a machine gun hanging from his arm.  And when he uttered his fervent, "Amen," I often heard it as the "scram" command by which he had so often cleared Main Street during the days when only such firmness could have spared West Frankfort the anguish of greater tragedy and sorrow that were ever-present threats.

          It seems, as I recall the troubled period when George Nipper was Chief of Police, that each time it became apparent that all hell was about to break loose and someone was needed to pour oil on the troubled waters, everybody in authority was content to say "Let George do it."  And he did.

          George Nipper did what had to be done during one of West Frankfort's most trying periods.  It was a time when we were sharing with Marion and Williamson County some tragic experiences.

          I believe that his Lord recognized all this when George changed his machine gun for a Bible, submitted himself for baptism and became a dedicated Deacon.

          I am happy that George Nipper was privileged to enjoy several years of peaceful existence after a life of beneficial turmoil in service to his community before crossing the last abyss.

          Knowing George Nipper as I did, I respected him fully as a Police officer and later as a Deacon.

          I believe he is now faithfully walking a beat across the parapets of heaven with some kind of celestial machine gun that fires love pellets instead of bullets.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AS RELATED BY HALLIE NIPPER REGARDING THIS TIME PERIOD

          Grandpa George was able to stop the PMA as they were trying to come into W.F. for their meeting by meeting them at the county line with his guns and police force.  They did not resist and left peacefully, never to return.  As a result of this he was given the promise by the UMW that he had a job with them should he ever need one.  He eventually did take them up on this offer and worked as an above ground "boss" for several years before retiring.  He was never a worker inside the mines.

          Grandpa was an alcoholic up until the time I was born.  Mother tells the story that I was the "apple of his eye" We lived with them until I was over a year old.  During that time my mother never saw him drunk.  She had no idea that he had a drinking problem.  On one weekend when my parents took me and stayed at her parents house (while they were gone) on a trip, they came back to West Frankfort for an unannounced visit.  Grandpa was not there when we arrived but came in before we left.  He was drunk.  The first ting he did was pick me up (he was one of my favorite people).  I immediately started screaming at the top of my lungs.  He put me down, turned around, and left the house without a word to anyone.  Mother later was told that he said, when he finally returned home, that he must be in a terrible condition if even an infant could not stand to be around him.  He never touched alcohol again.  I only knew him as a quiet, hard working man who loved his family and grandchildren.

Mary Jo Nipper Glover

            Grandpa George owned a garage on Short Street in West Frankfort and worked with his partner, K.O. Hiles. Iím not sure about time period but was before he worked in the mines.

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