Buford Pusser

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Buford Pusser
File:Buford Pusser.jpg
Born Buford Hayse Pusser
(1937-12-12)December 12, 1937
Finger, Tennessee, U.S.
Died August 21, 1974(1974-08-21) (aged 36)
Adamsville, Tennessee, U.S.
Residence Adamsville, Tennessee, U.S.
Other names Buford The Bull
Occupation Police officer
Spouse(s) Pauline Pusser
Children Dwana
Website http://sheriffbufordpusser.com
Buford Pusser Home and Museum in Adamsville.

Buford Hayse Pusser (December 12, 1937 – August 21, 1974) was the Sheriff of McNairy County, Tennessee, from 1964 to 1970. Pusser is known for his virtual one-man war on moonshining, prostitution, gambling, and other vices along the Mississippi–Tennessee state line. His efforts have inspired several books, songs,[1] movies, and a TV series.

The Buford Pusser Museum[2] was established at the house he was in at the time of his death in 1974. A Buford Pusser Festival is held each May in his hometown of Adamsville, Tennessee.

Life and career

Buford Pusser was born to Helen and Carl Pusser in Finger, McNairy County, Tennessee. His father was the police chief of Adamsville, Tennessee. Buford Pusser was a high school football and basketball player and was 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m) tall. He joined the United States Marine Corps when he graduated from high school. His service ended during his United States Marine Corps Recruit Training, when he was given a medical discharge for asthma.[3]

In 1957 he moved to Chicago, where he was a local wrestler known as "Buford The Bull". He married his wife Pauline on December 5, 1959. Pusser returned home in 1962. He was Adamsville's police chief and constable from 1962 to 1964. After incumbent sheriff James Dickey was killed in a freak auto accident, Pusser was then elected sheriff of McNairy County, Tennessee, becoming the youngest sheriff in Tennessee's history. Pusser promptly began trying to eliminate the Dixie Mafia and the State Line Mob.[citation needed]

Pusser survived several assassination attempts. On February 1, 1966, Louise Hathcock attempted to kill Pusser during an on-site investigation of a robbery complaint at The Shamrock. Hathcock fired on Pusser with a concealed .38 pistol. Pusser returned fire and killed Hathcock. On January 2, 1967, Pusser was shot three times by an unidentified gunman. [4]

Already a local hero, Pusser's "war" on the State Line Mob was brought to national prominence when his wife, Pauline, was killed on August 12, 1967, during an assassination ambush intended for Pusser. Pusser named Kirksey McCord Nix, Jr. as the contractor of his wife's killers, although neither Nix nor anyone else was ever charged with the crime. Pusser shot and killed an intoxicated Charles Russell Hamilton on December 25, 1968, after responding to a complaint that Hamilton had threatened his landlord with a gun.[5]

Pusser was ineligible for re-election in 1970 due to the term limit then in effect. He was defeated in his bid for sheriff in 1972. Pusser blamed the loss to incumbent Sheriff Clifford Coleman in part on the controversy surrounding the making of the semi-biographical movie, Walking Tall. He was re-elected as constable of Adamsville by a majority of voters who wrote in his name on their ballots. He served as constable for two more years (1970–1972).


Pusser died on August 21, 1974 from injuries sustained in a one-car automobile accident. Earlier in the day, Pusser had contracted with Bing Crosby Productions in Memphis to portray himself in the sequel to Walking Tall. That evening, returning home alone from the McNairy County Fair in his specially modified Corvette, Pusser struck an embankment at high speed that ejected him from the vehicle. The car caught fire and burned. [6]

Local speculation as to the cause included rumors of sabotage to the steering mechanism and the tie-rods.The State Trooper who worked the accident, Paul Ervin, later became McNairy County sheriff. Both Pusser's mother Helen (1908–1987) and his daughter Dwana (born 1961) believed he was murdered. Dwana, a passenger in another car, came upon the scene of the accident moments later. No autopsy of Pusser's body was performed. As sheriff, Pusser was credited with surviving seven stabbings and eight shootings. Pusser's memorial service was held at the Adamsville Church of Christ.

Location of crash site: Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.[6]

Murder of Pauline Pusser

According to Pusser, his phone rang before dawn on the morning of August 12, 1967, informing him of a disturbance on New Hope Road in McNairy County; Pusser responded and his wife Pauline rode along. Shortly after they passed the New Hope Methodist Church, a car came alongside theirs and the occupant opened fire, killing Pauline and leaving Pusser for dead. Doctors said he was struck by at least two, or possibly three rounds from a .30 caliber carbine on the left side of his jaw. He spent 18 days in the hospital before returning home and would need several more surgeries to restore his appearance.[citation needed]

Pusser vowed to bring all involved with his wife's death to justice. He identified four assassins: Louise Hathcock's former boyfriend Carl Douglas "Towhead" White, George McGann, Gary McDaniel, and Kirksey Nix; but he later changed his story when he couldn't identify them from pictures and in person. White was gunned down in front of the El Ray Motel on U.S. Highway 45 in Corinth, Mississippi on April 4, 1969; the alleged triggerman was a small-time hood named Berry Smith.

W.R. Morris, author of The State Line Mob: A True Story of Murder and Intrigue, wrote in 1990 that Pusser himself had hired the hit man who killed White with a shotgun blast to the head. In late 1970, there was a report that both McDaniel and McGann were found shot to death in Texas. According to Edward Humes in Mississippi Mud: Southern Justice and the Dixie Mafia (1994), some law enforcement officials suspected Pusser of having killed both. However, McGann was killed, as a result of an unrelated matter, by one Ronny Weeden, who was tried and convicted of the crime.[citation needed]

Pusser never brought Kirksey Nix or any of the accused to justice. Nix was sentenced to the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola for the Easter Saturday 1971 murder of New Orleans grocer Frank J. Corso. Nix was later involved in the 1987 murder-for-hire of Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife Margaret, in Biloxi, Mississippi. His co-conspirator, Biloxi Mayor Pete Halat, had stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars from Nix and blamed it on his law partner, Judge Sherry. Nix ordered a hit from prison and was later sentenced to isolation for the rest of his life. Nix has repeatedly refused to comment about Pusser's claims that he was one of Pauline Pusser's killers.[citation needed]

Pop culture

Buford Pusser's official sheriff badge.

Pusser was the subject of three biographical books written by W.R. Morris: The Twelfth Of August: The Story of Buford Pusser (1971), Buford: True Story of "Walking Tall" Sheriff Buford Pusser (1984) and The State Line Mob: A True Story of Murder and Intrigue (1990). In addition, Morris also created a pictorial history book of Buford called The Legacy of Buford Pusser: A Pictorial History of the "Walking Tall" Sheriff (1997). Pusser's daughter Dwana released a book in 2009 entitled Walking On, which is also an account of his life.[7]

The 1973 movie Walking Tall was based on Pusser's story. It was a combination of fact and Hollywood revisionism. This has since become a well known cult classic with two direct sequels of its own in 1975 and 1977, a TV movie in 1978 and a brief TV series in 1981.[7]

A remake by the same name was released in 2004 as a somewhat less realistic and more mainstream film. Also dedicated to Pusser, the remake stars Dwayne Johnson and again takes liberties with the story, giving the action a more modern setting and premise. In this version the main character is not referred to as Buford Pusser but as Chris Vaughn.[7]

After the success of the 2004 film, Walking Tall: The Payback was released in 2007 direct-to-video. The name of the main character, who was portrayed by Kevin Sorbo, was changed to Nick Prescott, and the movie was set in the Dallas area. Later that year on September 25, 2007, Sorbo returned in Walking Tall: Lone Justice.[7]

In the songs "The Buford Stick" and "The Boys From Alabama", from their 2004 album The Dirty South, the Drive-By Truckers speculated on how criminals might've viewed Pusser.


  1. "Records". Drive-By Truckers. Retrieved 2010-11-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Buford Pusser Home & Museum". Bufordpussermuseum.com. 1968-12-25. Retrieved 2010-11-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "How Tall Did Buford Pusser Really Walk". People Magazine. Retrieved August 28, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Brewer, Wiley. "Pusser Shot After Stopping Speeding Auto". Daily Corinthian, January 3, 1967; retrieved January 11, 2008.
  5. Casey, James. "Sheriff Slays Killer of Four In McNairy". The Jackson Sun; retrieved January 11, 2008.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Buford Pusser Died Here, Adamsville, Tennessee". RoadsideAmerica.com. Retrieved 2015-10-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 * Buford Pusser at the Internet Movie Database
  • Morris, W.R. (1990). The State Line Mob. Rutledge Hill Press. ISBN 1-55853-861-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links