We tell the story of the famous Buford Pusser. Find out what fuelled this intriguing story of murder and revenge.
When you are famed for your war on crime, what do you do when the crime is murder and the victim is your wife?
This is the question that Sheriff Buford had to make when his wife, was gunned down in front of his eyes.
What did he do and who killed Sheriff Buford’s wife, Pauline Pusser?
Read on to find out what happened.
In the early hours of the morning, Sheriff Buford Pusser responded to an emergency call that would change the course of his life.
With his wife Pauline Pusser along for the ride in Tennessee, things were about to take a dramatic twist.
A gunman pulled up next to them and fired three rounds into the car. Pauline was murdered in cold blood and Sheriff Buford, left for dead.
It was August 12th, 1967.
The majority of the shots went straight through Buford’s jaw. Although he needed extensive reconstructive surgery on his jaw – he survived.
But Buford was angry. He wanted revenge:
He promised himself he would avenge his wife’s killers- his way.
Before the murder
1960s Tennessee was a lawless state. Criminality fuelled by corruption was rife. Gambling, bootlegging, drugs and theft were a major problem. Much of the root of the problem stemmed from the crime rings local to the area, which included the notorious Dixie Mafia.
Elected sheriff, Buford had been cleaning things up since 1964.
A hero to many, Buford also made a lot of enemies.
He had several attempts on his life before the one in 1967.
In 1966, Pusser killed Louise Hathcock after she tried to murder him with a hidden gun when he arrived at The Shamrock to investigate a report of robbery. Two years later, Sheriff Buford shot and killed Charles Hamilton when he was called to attend a disturbance involving Hamilton, who had threatened to kill his landlord with a gun.
Having spent some time as a wrestler in Chicago, under the name of ‘Buford The Bull’. Sheriff Buford had a memorable appearance. He was over 6 feet tall, with a robust frame and lots of red freckles. It was said that he fought fire with fire.
A softly spoken family man, he only killed two men in his career. He was the youngest Sheriff Tennessee had ever had.
His tireless work for three years to rid Tennessee of its notorious crime rings won him the gratitude of the beleaguered locals. He also earnt the respect of many members of the police force across the country. A sentiment that still exists today.
Buford had followed in the footsteps of his father to become police chief in 1961, before running for sheriff a few years after.
After the murder
Sheriff Buford Pusser identified Kirksey McCord Nix Jr as the man behind his wife, Pauline Busser’s murder. He also listed Carl Douglas “Towhead” White (Louise Hathcock’s ex-boyfriend), George McGann and Gary McDaniel, as accomplices.
However, no-one was ever charged with Pauline Buford’s murder.
Instead, unable to identify Nix, White, McGann and McDaniel in person or from photos, Sheriff Buford changed his mind.
Later, in 1969, White was shot and killed outside a motel in Mississippi.
In 1970, McDaniel and McCann were gunned down in Texas.
In 1971, Nix was imprisoned for the murder of Frank J.Corso, a grocer from New Orleans. Nix was later found to be involved in the murder of Judge Vincent Shelley and his wife in Biloxi, Mississipi.
A case which also led to the downfall of corrupt Biloxi Mayor, Pete Halat, who was found to have worked with Nix (who was already behind bars).
As a result, Nix will serve the remainder of his life in isolation. He still refuses to respond to questions about Pauline Pusser.
Pusser has been linked to the murders over the years – but nothing has ever been proven.
How did Buford Pusser die?
In 1974, Buford Pusser got in his car for the last time. Crashing into a roadside embankment at 100 mph, Buford was thrown out of the car which promptly burst into flames.
What happened to Sheriff Buford Pusser? Was Buford Pusser murdered?
If so, who killed Buford Pusser?
Buford’s death is still shrouded in mystery. The official verdict was that it was an accident, but Buford’s family and fans still maintain that he was murdered.
Buford left behind a daughter, Dwana Pusser.
Dwana Pusser was driving a short distance behind her father when he died. Dwana maintains that her father was assasinated. No autopsy was ever carried out on Buford’s body.
There have been suggestions that Buford may have been intoxicated at the time of his death, but again, this remains unproven.
Since Pauline Pusser’s murder in the late sixties, Sheriff Buford Pusser and his war on crime has captured the imagination of the American public. Already a local hero, his work to rid Tennessee of corruption became a national story after Pauline Pusser’s murder.
Unable to re-claim his office of Sheriff, years later (which he blamed on the release of the movie “Walking Tall”), he was elected as constable by the locals of Adamsville in 1970.
Buford Pusser’s memory continues to live on in The Buford Pusser Museum, an annual county fair, the 1973 film, ‘Walking Tall’ – a biographical movie of his life, as well as two further films after his death.
In 2004, Walking Tall was re-made again. However, although dedicated to Pusser, the movie was only loosely based on fact and Sheriff Buford’s name was changed to Chris Vaughan.
It seems that we may never know who killed Sheriff Buford Pusser and his wife Pauline Pusser. However, what we do know is the Sheriff Buford fought a great war on crime in 1960s Tennessee, one that is still remembered and celebrated by locals in Tennesssee.
Do you know of another local hero, working for the good of the local community? Let us know, we would love to shine a spotlight on their achievements. Add your opinions and stories below.
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