Activist sues Dollywood over racial discrimination claims

By Duncan Mansfield
Knoxville, Tennessee (AP) 3-08

A perennial gubernatorial candidate and anti-illegal immigration activist has sued Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park for $5.5 million, alleging he was racially harassed when he worked there.

Carl “Two Feathers” Whitaker, who claims some American Indian ancestry, says in a federal lawsuit filed Feb. 27 that he was taunted by a co-worker who said things like “do rain dances, Tonto” and “you must be a mad Indian because we took your land.”

Whitaker says he complained to a supervisor but was ignored, his hours were cut and finally he was fired Jan. 1 after 10 months as a games attendant at Dollywood, Tennessee’s top tourist attraction located in the Great Smoky Mountains.

A second-tier independent/Republican candidate for governor in 2002 and 2006 with plans to run again in 2010, Whitaker is best known as a leader in the Tennessee Volunteer Minutemen, a loose-knit group formed in response to Tennessee’s growing Hispanic population and concerns over illegal immigrants.

Dollywood spokesman Pete Owens said the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently threw out a similar complaint Whitaker filed with that agency against Dollywood.

“Dollywood answered all the allegations that the EEOC brought forward and the EEOC dropped the proceedings, finding no fault regarding the specific allegations,” Owens said.

While Dollywood has yet to see the lawsuit, Owens said the company will “vigorously” fight the allegations and is “confident the court system will agree with the EEOC.”

Whitaker’s attorney Michael Shipwash was unavailable for comment, an aide said.

The Dollywood Co., in which entertainer Dolly Parton is a principal owner, employs about 2,500 people in Sevier County. Most are seasonal workers. Owens said the co-worker and supervisor named in Whitaker’s lawsuit are not on the payroll now.