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Special Collections Online at UT

Donald Paine Collection Regarding the White Caps of Sevierville, Tennessee

Identifier: MS-2513

  • Staff Only

This collection contains a variety of primary source information documenting the White Cap organization. This information can be found in Series I-V: Correspondence, Photographs, Notes and Papers, Newspaper Articles, and Court Records.

Series III: Newspaper Clippings has articles that provide the reader with valuable insight into the general public's view of the White Cap organization and the eventual punishment of convicted White Cap operatives.

Series V: Court Records houses records relating to trials of White Caps operatives, specifically Bob Catlett, Pleas Wynn, and Catlett Tipton. These records include chronologies, transcripts, opinions issued, and relevant legislation.

This collection also contains secondary source material regarding the White Caps. Chief among these sources are the books and articles contained in Series VI: Publications, which provide considerable background information about the organization.


  • 1892-2000


The material in this collection is in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collections are stored offsite and must be requested in advance. See for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.

Conditions Governing Use

The UT Libraries claims only physical ownership of most material in the collections. Persons wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants on for detailed information. Collections must be requested through a registered Special Collections research account.


1.5 Linear Feet (4 boxes)


This collection houses notes, correspondence, legal transcripts, supporting legal cases, newspaper clippings, and books documenting the White Cap organization and membership.

Biographical/Historical Note

The White Caps of Sevier County, Tennessee were a violent vigilante group formed in approximately 1892 by citizens who wished to rid the area of anyone they deemed immoral. The whitecapping movement dates as early as 1837 as secret societies were formed in predominantly rural areas of the United States with the goals of enforcing community standards and traditional behavior. White Caps attempted to force a person out of town by first leaving a note of warning, often times accompanied by hickory withes. If this threat did not work, members would resort to physical attacks including whipping. The White Caps of Sevier County were popular between 1892 and 1896 and faced little consequence from local law enforcement. In this atmosphere of tolerance, the beatings gradually increased in severity until local residents Laura and William Whaley were brutally murdered in front of their infant child in December 1896. While the organization had murdered previously, this gruesome event turned public opinion against the White Caps, and the group rapidly declined.

Donald Franklin Paine was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1939. He earned his B.A. (1961), M.A. (1963), and LL.B. (1963) from the University of Tennessee. Immediately after graduation, Paine served in the Army as a Captain in the Judge Advocate General's Corps. He was discharged in 1966 and returned to Tennessee, where he authored the Tennessee Law of Evidence (1974). Paine practiced law with Paine, Tarwater, and Bickers in addition to researching Tennessee's legal history. He was a Reporter to the Supreme Court Advisory Commission on Rules of Practice and Procedure, wrote a monthly column for the Tennessee Bar Journal, and lectured for the Tennessee Law Institute, the University of Tennessee College of Law, and the Tennessee Judicial Conference. Paine also served as President of the Knoxville Bar Association (1983) and of the Tennessee Bar Association (1986-1987). Paine died in Knoxville on November 18th, 2013.


This collection consists of four boxes divided into six series:

Missing Title

  1. Series I: Correspondence
  2. Series II: Photographs
  3. Series III: Notes and Papers
  4. Series IV: Newspaper Articles
  5. Series V: Court Records
  6. Series VI: Other Publications

Acquisition Note

Donald Paine donated this collection to Special Collections.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA