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Walking Tall


Walking Tall (1973)

Born in 1937, his father Carl Pusser, was the Police Chief of Adamsville, Tennessee, and his mother was Helen Pusser.

Buford joined the Marines when he was 18, but his military career was cut short during Boot Camp when it was discovered he had asthma. He thereafter moved to Chicago in 1957, working at Union Bag Co. and also as a wrestler. While there, he met and married his wife, Pauline (Dec. 5, 1959). Pusser later returned to his hometown in 1962, moving with his wife to Adamsville, Tennessee.

Pusser served as the Adamsville, police chief and constable from 1962 to 1964. He then ran for McNairy County, Tennessee sheriff in 1964 and won. Thus, at the age of 26, Pusser became the youngest sheriff in the history of the state of Tennessee. Pusser's predecessor as sheriff, James Dickey, died in a car accident about two weeks before the 1964 election.

At that time, the Dixie Mafia was led by Jack Hathcock who ran The Forty-Five Grill, a restaurant and dance hall near Corinth, Mississippi, just inside the Mississippi state line. The restaurant had opened in 1950, doubling as a gambling whorehouse with a reputation for violence towards any patrons who complained about crooked games. The restaurant was also the focal point for organized crime that included bootlegging. Jack was killed by Carl Douglas "Towhead" White (the infamous leader of the State Line Mob), who successfully claimed self defense. Jack's wife, Louise Hathcock would soon become (or perhaps already was) White's mistress.
On February 1, 1966, Pusser attempted to arrest Louise Hathcock for robbery; when she opened fire on him, he fired back and killed her.

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, in an assassination attempt meant for him (ordered by Carl Douglas "Towhead" White, see below). On April 5, 1969, White was killed by Berry "Junior" Smith, who also claimed it was in self defense. Pusser named Kirksey McCord Nix Jr. as the contractor of his wife's killers, but Nix was never charged with the crime.

In 1970, Pusser relinquished his role as sheriff due to a law limiting the number of terms a sheriff could serve at that time. Pusser was defeated in his attempt at reelection to sheriff in 1972. There was controversy regarding the film developing in the county and Pusser blamed that controversy for his defeat by incumbent Sheriff Clifford Coleman. Pusser was later elected again as constable by a majority of voters who wrote his name on their ballots. He served in that position for two more years.

Pusser died August 21, 1974, from wounds sustained in an automobile crash in which his Corvette hit an embankment and he was ejected from the vehicle. While the crash was ruled to be accidental, there has been ongoing speculation that, in light of the apparent speed of travel, foul play may have been involved in the incident (Buford's mother Helen (1908-1987) and his daughter Dwana (1961-) believed he was murdered). During his tenure as sheriff, Pusser was shot eight times and stabbed seven.

Sheriff Buford Pusser
by Joe Don Baker

American character actor and graduate of the Actor's Studio, though that did not remove the "gold ol' boy" from him. His breakthrough role was Curly Bonner, Steve McQueen's brother in the Sam Peckinpah film Junior Bonner. Baker also played the lead of 1973's Walking Tall, the story of a real-life South Tennessee sheriff Buford Pusser who was shot eight times in the line of duty. The film is one of the quintessential action films of the 1970s.

Sheriff Buford Pusser Home & Museum
Adamsville, Tennessee

The Buford Pusser Home and Museum is the real home, furnishings and memorabilia of the late Buford Pusser. It is filled with items depicting the life of Buford Pusser, from young childhood, to young adult, to lawman, to fame. Near the Museum you will find the Buford Pusser Park and playground.

The Buford Pusser Museum is Owned and Operated by the City of Adamsville, Tennessee