Crime History, Aug. 12, 1967: ‘Walking Tall’ sheriff Buford Pusser ambushed by moonshine mobsters

On this day, Aug. 12, in 1967, Southern mobsters ambushed Tennessee sheriff Buford Pusser and his wife in retaliation for Pusser’s one-man war on moonshining. The attack catapulted Pusser to national folk hero status and inspired the cult classic, “Walking Tall.”

Buford_Pusser

Buford Pusser

Shortly after he was elected sheriff of McNairy County at age 26, Pusser discovered that organized crime, namely the Dixie Mafia and the State Line Mob, were running prostitution, illegal alcohol and corruption throughout the county.

The 6-foot-6, 250-pounds Pusser was determined to stand up against the corruption in the county. In 1965, he destroyed 87 whiskey stills alone.

The mobsters fought back. He was shot eight times, knifed seven times, and once fought off six men trying to kill him, sending three to the hospital and the other three to jail

On the morning of Aug. 12, 1967, Buford got a call at home for a report of a disturbance. He responded to the call with his wife Pauline. On the ride, a car pulled alongside and opened fire. Pauline was killed and Buford had his jaw shot off.

Pusser spent 18 days in the hospital and needed several more surgeries to restore his appearance. The assailants were never discovered.

Buford Pusser retired as Sheriff in 1970, and he became famous with the 1973 movie “Walking Tall.” The movie portrays him carrying a big stick, which he uses in the film to whoop everyone in a roadhouse. His daughter says that he only carried a stick occasionally.

Pusser was killed Aug. 21, 1974, when his car veered off the road and crashed and burned. Since then there have been several more movies and books about Pusser. Each May, his hometown of Adamsville, Tennessee, holds the Buford Pusser Festival.

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Comments

  1. Will this cold case ever be looked at again?I believe Buford Pussers car was tampered with the night he was killed.

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