Walking Tall A True Story – A memorial service was held for Buford Pusser on August 21, commemorating his death 40 years ago in Adamsville. The participants met at the stadium where Pusser went before he was killed in a car accident. Eight miles, law enforcement
When Buford Pusser became the sheriff of McNairy County in 1964, he didn’t expect to become a hero and a hero to the underdog.
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Old friends said he was a good man. He was tall and stood over 6 feet tall, weighing about 250 pounds. He had sandy red hair and a bronze face. He always wears khakis and a t-shirt.
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He loved his family and announced his daughter’s name before he died. He is the sheriff who is famous for carrying a big stick, thanks to Hollywood. He was the one who cleaned up McNairy County. In 1973, a movie called “Walking Tall” was released, based on Pusser’s life. Two more films were made after his death. All three continue to inspire and motivate the audience.
“Lawmen really didn’t have a hero until Buford came along,” said Bill Wagoner, a high school classmate and friend of the Pusser family. “He became a hero to most law enforcement officers in America.”
Police Officer Ryan Burlesci of the Adamsville Police Department said Pusser’s story inspired him to get into law enforcement.
“I moved to Adamsville about eight to 10 years ago, and that was the first thing we did — go to the Buford Pusser Museum, see all the stuff and learn about his history here,” he said. “That’s why I’ve always wanted to do this.”
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Pusser was sheriff until 1970. During that time, he was shot and stabbed several times while trying to eradicate organized crime in McNairy County.
It has been 50 years since he was elected Sheriff, he was only 26 years old. It has been 47 years since his wife Pauline died in an ambush that some believe was an assassination attempt against Pusser. It has been 40 years since Pusser died. He left the fairgrounds and lost control of his 1974 Corvette, crashing it on Highway 64 in Lawton.
“I was at the stadium that night and he passed us on the way home and he died in my arms,” said his daughter, Dwana Pusser Garrison.
Today, people still visit the Pusser home in Adamsville. Garrison was told many times how much her father spoke to current law enforcement officers.
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“It’s amazing how many people come out here,” she said. “They want to pay taxes, even after all these years.”
On the anniversary of his death on Thursday, nearly 100 people gathered at the scene of Pusser’s crash to pay their respects.
Tucked away in Adamsville on Pusser Road is the house where Pusser lived. But now, it is a museum.
Guests enter through the front door and are first asked to sign the guestbook with their name and location.
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On the right are family photos: Buford Pusser and his wife Pauline. Their only son, Dwana. Her children and grandchildren. Pauline’s children, Mike and Diane.
To the left, newspaper clippings from Pusser’s life hang on the wall. Pusser’s bed lay untouched, a rope preventing visitors from entering. Gray leather chairs and metal chairs are positioned to the left in front of the TV. Visitors can watch an eight-minute video about Pusser’s life before continuing.
Upstairs are Pusser’s kitchen, living room, Dwana’s room, a guest room filled with Pauline’s belongings, and Mike’s bedroom – where, according to Garrison, Elvis Presley sat quietly on the day of Pusser’s funeral.
All rooms are filled with furniture, clothes and items from Pusser’s life, including school report cards and notebooks. Downstairs is Pusser’s bathroom and bedroom. His office and prison are also there at the same time.
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“It was well managed,” the museum said. “The crowd was very welcoming and the turnout was good.”
Last year, the guestbook was filled with names from all over the United States, and nine countries were represented.
“The first satellite in Pusser that went up in January of ’64 was my cousin,” Sweat said. “Buford was still the police chief of Adamsville at the time.”
Sweat, who now owns a car dealership in Selmer, said Pusser was never overlooked because he was just “doing his job.”
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Tourists also visit his shop, where pictures of Pusser hang on the walls and a replica of the Sheriff’s car from the first movie “Walking Tall” is placed outside.
“A lot of people think Pusser drives the car,” Sweat said. “I had to tell him, no, it’s a copy of the movie.”
After graduating from Adamsville High School, Pusser moved to Chicago and wrestled professionally for a while before his father, Carl, the Adamsville police chief, became disabled.
Pusser became president in 1961. Three years later, he ran for sheriff with the goal of cleaning up McNairy County, especially near the Mississippi state line, where serious crime had entered the state with gambling, prostitution and illegal industries. not.
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Wagoner and Garrison said that before Pusser was elected, serious crimes had become so rampant that even law-abiding citizens feared for their safety.
About three years ago, Garrison heard one of those horror stories from a woman who owned a lot of land near the state line in the Pusser era.
The woman, Garrison said, told him that there were days when she and her husband found “someone dead in the woods” and fear of retaliation kept them from calling the police.
She said, “I want you to know, when your father took office, he stopped.” She said, “I want to say thank you. Thank you for what your father did for us,” Garrison said.
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State linemen would eventually be the ones to jumpstart not only Pusser’s career, but his popularity.
“In early February, 1966, Pusser responded to a call after a couple from Illinois called to report a robbery at the Shamrock Motel in Korinth, Mississippi,” Wagoner said. “He went down there to investigate, and as a result, he shot Louise Hathcock.”
According to the report, Hathcock shot Pusser first, then raised her weapon a second time before Pusser fatally shot her.
“Russ Hamilton killed four people,” Wagoner said. “He spent 30 years in prison because he killed four people. It’s a terrible thing.”
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Pusser was called after Hamilton allegedly threatened his lawyer. Wagoner said Hamilton opened fire on Pusser first, shooting through Pusser’s shirt and killing the gun in his jacket pocket.
On August 12, 1967, Pusser’s wife, Pauline, was killed in an ambush, which many say was an assassination attempt on Pusser.
“Pusser responded to a disturbance call on New Hope Road, near the Mississippi state line,” Wagoner said. “His car was shot. Pauline was killed instantly. Buford was shot in the mouth maybe twice. That’s what the surgeon said.”
No matter how many times she talks about that day, Garrison still doesn’t miss when those things come back.
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“It’s hard to recover,” she said, when asked what happened to her parents’ public death. “This is my family, this is my mother, you must know, this is my life.”
Garrison spent another seven years with her father before he died in a car accident on August 21, 1974.
“Pusser wasn’t trying to get attention,” Wagoner said. “Pusser really didn’t try to make a name for himself. Fire.”
“I think what made the first movie, ‘Walk Tall,’ so popular, was that people were fed up with it,” Wagoner said. “They saw Buford commit a heinous crime, and they saw him give some people what they were coming for, and that’s the bottom line.”
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Garrison said the first three films were the best. The last film, “The Final Chapter: Walking Tall” came out in 1977.
The film was originally titled “Pusser,” but Garrison said her father came up with the name “Walking Tall” and ultimately, “Walking Tall” was cut. Garrison later wrote a book called “Walking On” about her father’s life and values.
Since the movies, Garrison said she talked to many law enforcement officers who told her that the movies inspired them to enter their profession.
On August 20, 1974, Pusser signed a contract that he would play himself in the second film “Walking Tall”.
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“Many people don’t know this now, but to show what kind of person Father is, when he came home and signed the paper in Memphis, he mowed the lawn and washed it.”
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