A Tennessee Historical spat

Madison County historian Linda J. Higgins was involved in a “verbal altercation” with Loni Harris, wife of Madison County Mayor Jimmy Harris, at Friday’s Tennessee Historical Commission at the University of Memphis-Lambuth, according to the Jackson Sun. The mayor got involved as well and Higgins was escorted out of the meeting by a University of Memphis police officer, says a police report.

According to the report, Higgins, who was appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam to the historical commission in 2014, was causing a “disruptive scene, arguing and waving her hands in Ms. Harris’ face.” An officer was called over, intervened and ultimately walked Higgins out of the building before the meeting began.

The argument… was over the 101 Great Things to Do special section of The Jackson Sun. …Higgins wanted to pass out copies of the section to the commission members, but when she arrived at the meeting the papers were already laid out.

An argument ensued. Higgins said both she and Loni Harris were raising their voices and that Loni denied knowing that Higgins wanted to pass out the papers beforehand. During the escalating argument, Higgins said, Jimmy Harris stepped in and grabbed her arm.

“At that time [Jimmy] moved in between me and her with his back to her and facing me,” Higgins said. “I’m assuming that I had my hand up over his head trying to get her attention to say, ‘You did know what I was talking about,’ and that’s when he grabbed my arm. He must’ve thought I was going to hit her.”

Jimmy Harris denied that he grabbed Higgins’ arm, but said he moved it out of the way.

“I didn’t grab her arm, but I did push her finger down because she was wagging it front of my wife’s face, and I thought [Higgins] was going to hit her.”

Loni Harris did not answer questions from The Jackson Sun, but did email a written statement.

“After several slurs and continual screaming at members of the Tennessee Historical Commission and myself, Mrs. Higgins lunged at me with what I perceived as intent of bodily harm,” Loni said. “My husband deflected her hand from hitting my face. I then asked a University of Memphis Police officer to remove her from the building. I am truly sorry for the public embarrassment and humiliation brought to Madison County by Mrs. Higgins’ actions.”

…The police report states, “Officer Skinner stepped between Ms. Higgins and Ms. Harris to separate them and was struck by Ms. Higgins as she waved her hands. Officer Skinner felt the strike was unintentional and ordered Ms. Higgins to cease her actions.”

Higgins said she did not strike the officer and she doesn’t think she told Skinner to shut up, but said she did question who he was at first.

Higgins told The Jackson Sun that Skinner escorted her out of the building roughly… “My being taken from the meeting was an illegal act, I think,” she said. “I had done nothing to have been removed.”