At a time when the American government was battling the illicit brewing of spirits, otherwise known as moonshining, as well as prostitution, gambling, and other vices that plagued the society, Buford Pusser was one person who happened to be able to wage a one-man war against any and everybody that was involved in such activities along the Mississippi-Tennessee state line. The McNairy County Sheriff, who later served as Constable of Adamsville in his home state of Tennessee, proved to be so effective in his action that he has since become a folk hero, inspiring several songs, books, movies, and at least one TV series.
Buford’s journey to hero status began at a very young age when he saw the activities of his father who was the police chief of Adamsville, Tennessee. Thanks to his height of 6 feet 6 inches, the young boy went on to play both high school football and basketball before joining the United States Marine Corps, however, his stay with the corps was cut short due to his problem with asthma.
By the late 1950s, Buford Pusser left Tennessee and moved to Chicago, Illinois where he became a local wrestler by the name Buford The Bull. In 1962, he returned home to join the police, becoming the youngest sheriff in Tennessee’s history after the incumbent sheriff passed away. As soon as the young man assumed office, he began working to stop the activities of criminal organizations like the Dixie Mafia and the State Line Mob.
Due to his actions against the criminal organizations, Buford Pusser faced a number of assassination attempts that he narrowly happened to survive. On one occasion, an unknown gunman shot him three times but was unable to kill him. In total, he survived seven stabbings and eight shootings which went a long way in ensuring his status as a local hero.
What Happened To Buford Pusser?
Seemingly untouchable thanks to the fact that he had survived multiple attempts to take his life, what happened to Buford Pusser on the 12th of August 1967 was something that no one, not even his wife, would have imagined.
On that day, the police chief received a phone call about a disturbance on New Hope Road in McNairy County. He went on to respond to the call with his wife who opted to ride along. As the pair made their way to the location, another vehicle pulled up alongside them and the occupant of the passenger’s seat opened fire. Pauline, Pusser’s wife, was killed immediately while he himself was left for dead as three bullets struck the left side of his jaw. He went on to spend 18 days in the hospital, undergoing a number of surgeries to restore his face.
Following the loss of his wife, Buford Pusser vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice. One person that he identified as being involved was Dixie Mafia leader Kirksey McCord Nix Jr who was later sent to jail for life without parole for an unrelated murder incident.
How Did He Eventually Die?
On the 21st of August 1974, Buford Pusser was involved in a ghastly motor accident that took his life. The incident that ended up killing him happened the same day the McNairy County hero agreed to portray himself in the sequel to his 1973 semi-biographical movie, Walking Tall. The film was about his transition from a professional wrestler to a law enforcement official.
As the story goes, the lawman was returning home from the McNairy County Fair when he struck an embankment at high speed. The accident ejected him from the specially modified Corvette vehicle which itself caught fire and burned.
A report by the state trooper who worked the accident said that Pusser’s death was caused by drunk driving without a seat belt. Foul play was however identified as the reason by Pusser’s mother and daughter who believed he was murdered by the sabotaging of his car’s steering mechanism. What exactly happened on the night of Buford Pusser’s death has remained a mystery as no autopsy was performed on his remains which were interred at an unknown location. A memorial service was subsequently held at the Adamsville Church of Christ.