On February the 1st, 19 & 66,
the McNairy County, Tennessee, Sheriff's Office had received a phone call
from a young couple, stating that they were tourists from Illinois,
and that they had been staying at The Shamrock Motel,
located on the Tennessee and Mississippi State Line.
Their complaint was that Louise Hathcock, owner and operator of the motel,
had taken Mrs. Vogel's purse
and threatened the couple with a gun.
Sheriff Buford Pusser, armed with a search warrant and two deputies,
Petey Plunk and Jim Moffett, headed for the State Line.
Buford Pusser had been Sheriff of McNairy County for less than two years.
Elected in 19 & 64 at the age of 26,
he was the youngest sheriff ever to be elected in the State of Tennessee.
Sheriff Pusser was very familiar with Louise Hathcock
and knew very well what she was capable of.
Now, four months before Pusser took office as Sheriff in McNairy County,
around 2:45 in the early morning hours
of May the 22nd, 1964,
Louise Hathcock shot and killed her ex-husband,
She stated that Jack had beaten and raped her
at The Shamrock Motel
they both owned together.
After Louise was able to get her .38 pistol
from a dresser drawer,
she shoots Jack five times.
He staggers out of Unit 1, almost a hundred feet,
and collapses in the driveway
between the motel and the restaurant.
McNairy County Sheriff at that time was James Dickey.
He investigated because The Shamrock was in Tennessee,
and Sheriff Grady Bingham assisted,
because Jack collapsed within a few feet of the Mississippi State Line.
Louise was not charged for the death of Jack, mostly because
during the preliminary hearing, Sheriff Dickey testified
that Louise had cuts and bruises that substantiated her story.
Now, during Sheriff Pusser's first year in office,
he made a strong push to get rid of the County's illegal whiskey stills.
Now, this is Sheriff Pusser with Chief Deputy Moffett
on one of those several such raids.
Although Jack and Louise owned The Shamrock,
and W. O. Hathcock owned The Plantation Club,
and Carl "Towhead" White owned The White Iris,
that was not their main source of income.
especially "Towhead" White -
it was making and selling illegal whiskey,
and that was what Pusser was putting a stop to.
It is true that,
if you were a stranger with money at any of these clubs,
you would most likely be robbed and beaten,
such as this Memphis salesman that charged Jack and Louise
of calling him back into the kitchen,
hitting him over the head with a gun barrel,
and robbin' him of a hundred dollars.
Louise could be cruel, and, at the same time,
be protective of her friends.
One such friend was drinking at The Plantation Club,
and Louise was there;
some woman come in, and set down,
and started talkin' to different men.
Louise come to her friend and said,
"Whatever you do,
do not speak, or even look at that woman."
But, of course, some men - who she hadn't told -
went and set down to talk to her, at her table.
A few minutes later, another man comes through the door,
walks to the woman's table,
and hits the man with a pair of knucks,
knocking him out cold.
Then he turns and hits the woman,
knocking her out.
He grabs her by the hair of the head,
and drags her out the front door.
As a few of the men started to aid the woman -
when Louise stopped 'em, and said,
"This is that man's wife, and you don't wanna get into that!"
They straightened up the tables and chairs,
and set back down.
Now, all these State Line clubs were legal,
and it was very hard to close down prostitution and gambling.
They would simply pay the fine - and go back to it.
If you give 'em trouble,
the truth is: you might find a hand or a foot in your mailbox,
just to make a point.
The reason they wanted to get rid of Pusser was:
he was hurting their moonshine business,
where they made a great deal of their money.
Carl "Towhead" White was forced to move his moonshine operation
out of McNairy County to get away from Sheriff Pusser.
He moved his operation
to Tishomingo County, Mississippi,
and, in 19 & 65,
Sheriff James Bishop, of Tishomingo County,
along with Federal agents,
arrested "Towhead" White and several other men
for operating whiskey stills in Mississippi.
"Towhead" was sent to the Federal Pen in Montgomery, Alabama.
He threatened the life of Sheriff Bishop,
but he never followed through on it.
So, on February the 1st,
when Sheriff Pusser and his deputies were on their way to The Shamrock
to arrest Louise Hathcock,
"Towhead" White was actually still in prison.
Now, this is where The Shamrock once stood.
The motel was here -
and right in there was the restaurant.
Now, this is the way it looked
when Sheriff Pusser and his deputies arrived.
Now, notice the shed awning in front of the office
that customers could pull under,
and then go register at the desk.
In later photographs,
this cover will be enclosed
in order to become a beer package store.
Now, this is a rough drawing that might help explain events.
This is the restaurant dining room.
It looked like this. . .
a nice place to eat.
And then, the kitchen. . .
and, of course, the nightclub, in the rear,
was actually bigger than it shows in this drawing,
and this is where most of the action took place.
There was a driveway between the restaurant and the motel.
The X is where Jack Hathcock fell and died
after being shot by Louise,
some two years earlier.
Now, you see the lobby, where guests would register.
The Sheriff and deputies found Louise setting in her office
and, according to Deputy Plunk,
she was intoxicated, with a drink in her hand.
The office had a door connecting to Unit 1,
which was Louise's bedroom
that she used when she had to work over,
or stay over at the motel.
The back room is where, some say,
that janitor and motel handyman Howard Carroll was working
at the time of the shooting.
The Sheriff stated that Louise said
that she wanted to speak to him in private.
He followed her out of her office,
into Unit 1, her bedroom.
Now, some believe that she pulled her .38
out of her pocket.
Some say that she walked to the dresser drawer,
and got it out of the drawer,
the same way that she did
when she shot and killed Jack, her ex-husband.
She then turned, and, according to Deputy Plunk,
she said "I'm gonna kill you!" to the Sheriff.
Now, Sheriff Pusser stated that he fell back on the bed,
and she shot, and barely missed his head.
The bullet went through the front window
and struck the post holding up the awnings
outside the front desk.
The Sheriff said that Louise pulled the trigger again
and the gun misfired.
He then shot her three times.
She fell where the X is located.
After the gun misfired, she might have been trying
to take cover in the bathroom.
Now, this is the Sheriff standing in Louise's bedroom
with the Medical Examiner - with his back turned -
as he was examining Louise's body. . .
and the next photograph is standing in the bedroom
and looking into her office.
Now, notice the checkerboard flooring.
Lots of things happened over the years on these floors.
Although Sheriff Pusser was cleared by the Grand Jury
in the shooting of Louise Hathcock,
questions still remain.
Some say that Louise's .38 was not the first shot fired,
but the last,
which would mean that the Sheriff fired first,
and then fired Louise's gun,
in order to show that he killed her in self-defense.
Now, it's doubtful to me
that the Sheriff went to The Shamrock that day
in order to kill Louise Hathcock.
Why would he bring along two deputies?
It is possible that Louise pulled a gun
and threatened the Sheriff by saying "I'm going to kill you!"
as Deputy Plunk said.
This, with her being intoxicated,
would slow her reactions; and the threat,
and her with a gun,
would be enough, under the law,
to shoot her in self-defense.
It is possible, believin' her intentions was to kill him,
makes it reasonable to think
that he would shoot her three times,
even if he did not really have to,
including the final shot to the head,
which may have been completely unnecessary.
Louise Hathcock was killed
February the 1st, 19 & 66,
with her business partner and part-time lover,
"Towhead" White, still in Federal Prison.
But in December the 11th, 1966,
that same year,
"Towhead" and a fellow prisoner, Julius French,
escaped from a minimum security prison.
Less than one month after "Towhead" and French
broke out of the prison,
Sheriff Pusser attempted to stop a speeding car heading south
along Highway 45.
As he approached from the passenger side,
the late-model light-green Chrysler
with Mississippi plates
had two men inside.
He was shot three times
and left on the side of the highway.
He did manage to drive himself to the hospital in Selmer,
and on January the 5th, 19 & 67,
three days after the Sheriff was shot,
"Towhead" White turned himself in
to Federal authorities,
knowing that the authorities
had intensified their hunt for the two fugitives
after the shooting of the Sheriff.
French did not turn himself in.
During the next seven months,
it's generally accepted that Carl "Towhead" White
made a phone call from prison to Oklahoma gangster
Kirksey McCord Nix Jr.,
asking him to kill Sheriff Pusser.
It's believed by some that Kirksey Nix and two other men
even spent the night of August the 11th
at The Shamrock Motel,
and, in the early morning hours
of August the 12th, 1967,
a phone call was placed to the home of Sheriff Pusser,
telling him that there was some sort of trouble
on New Hope Road in the southern part of the county.
As he gets up and prepares to go,
his wife, Pauline, decides to ride with him.
The assassins had no way of knowing
that his wife would be with him.
It was still dark outside
when the Sheriff and Pauline
left their home in Adamsville.
Traveling towards New Hope Road,
they will pass the New Hope Church.
Now, it's believed that
a dark-colored 1965 Cadillac, with three men inside,
was waiting behind the church,
and, as the Sheriff's car passed,
the assassins fell in behind,
running at high speed with their lights off.
According to the Sheriff, as they approached the bridge,
their lights came on,
and they began shooting as they were pulling up close to his car,
striking Pauline in the head.
Now, when the Sheriff realized that it was an ambush,
he stomped the gas, pulled ahead, and after a few miles,
it appeared that their murderers had either turned off,
or dropped way behind.
He then stopped his car -
somewhere around here - along this side of this road,
to see about his wife, and, according to the Sheriff,
the murderers suddenly appeared for another attack.
During this attack, the Sheriff is shot in the face,
blowing away the lower part of his jaw,
and, laying in the floorboard,
the killers believe that he is dead, and drive away.
The Sheriff is in severe shock; his wife is dead;
her blood is all over the car.
His lower jaw is dangling.
He tries to get help on his car radio.
The Sheriff's dispatcher knew that he was in trouble,
but couldn't make out what he was trying to say.
Sheriff Pusser will be rushed to the Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis.
He'll be in the hospital when his wife, Pauline, is buried.
He will be hospitalized for some 18 days, and go through
some 16 surgeries, through the coming years,
to help restore his face.
Now, this photo, taken by the staff at the Baptist Hospital,
of the wound of Sheriff Pusser's lower jaw,
is enough for me
to dispel any rumors of a self-inflicted wound.
After Pauline's death, Buford first states
that he could identify the shooters, but later
refuses to identify Kirksey Nix, Jr.,
stating that it looked like him, but he couldn't be sure.
Now, there could be several reasons for not identifying Nix.
First, it'd be hard to convict Nix,
as he would surely be able to produce witnesses
as to his whereabouts at the time;
and, it was dark,
as the Sheriff did not see the car behind him
until they turned their lights on; and most of the time,
he had his head down, trying to shield himself from gunfire.
It's most likely that Sheriff Pusser
wanted to take care of the problem himself.
I know for a fact that the Sheriff believed
that Carl "Towhead" White was behind the ambush.
My father-in-law was the chief bootlegger
in Tishomingo County, Mississippi.
He was very familiar with the State Line bunch.
I remember him calling Sheriff Pusser
and telling him that "Towhead" White was behind the ambush,
and the Sheriff said that he knew that,
and that he planned on taking care of it.
For weeks, my father-in-law was afraid to go out of his house,
afraid that "Towhead" White would lay in wait, and shoot him on sight.
One year after the ambush of Sheriff Pusser and Pauline,
"Towhead" White is let out of prison
in September of 19 & 68,
and in less than seven months,
on April the 4th, 1969,
"Towhead" White is killed at The El Rey Motel in Corinth, Mississippi.
Now, this is the location, on old 45 Highway, south of Corinth,
where Theresa's Truck Stop
and The El Rey Motel was located.
The motel was located where the tower structure is.
The official version of "Towhead" White's death
goes something like this:
"Towhead" and Barry Smith, Jr.'s wife
drives up to room number 3 at The EL Rey Motel.
When White sees Junior Smith, he starts shooting.
Smith grabs a gun from the motel office
- as Smith was part owner of The EL Rey -
and starts shooting back,
and kills "Towhead" White.
Now, there are several unofficial versions.
One is that Smith was laying on the roof of the El Rey,
and shot White through the windshield as he drove up.
Another is that "Towhead" had already been killed
before they reached the motel,
and the gunfight was staged.
Several sources stated that his body was already cold
at the time law enforcement arrived.
It has also been said that whoever killed "Towhead" White
was sitting in the back seat,
and shot him through the driver's seat.
Regardless of who killed the notorious outlaw,
lawmen were all relieved that he was dead and,
strange enough, the shooting was considered in self-defense.
Naturally, talk was that
Buford paid Smith to kill White -
or, perhaps, Buford killed White himself;
or, maybe, Sheriff Pusser had nothing at all to do with the death of "Towhead" White.
There was only a half-hearted attempt by law enforcement
to find out the truth.
Within two years after "Towhead" White's death,
Kirksey Nix is sentenced, in 1971, to life in prison
for the murder of Frank Corso,
a New Orleans grocery owner.
Nix is now serving in solitary confinement
for his setting up, from his jail cell,
the murder of Biloxi, Mississippi Judge Vincent Sherry,
and his wife Margaret.
Nix still refuses to speak about the Pusser ambush.
On the 21st day of August, 19 & 74,
Buford Pusser had returned from Memphis,
where he had just signed a contract to star
in the next "Walking Tall" movie.
He had left the Macnairy County Fair in Selmer,
headed for his home in Adamsville, some 12 miles away;
traveling in his one-year-old Corvette,
driving at a high rate of speed,
and losing control and sliding approximately 300 feet
across the westbound lane,
and hittin' this embankment,
causing a broken neck.
He's thrown through the open roof.
The car burst into flames.
His young daughter, traveling behind him with friends,
witnessing her Father's death.
7 years after the ambush of Pauline,
her husband will now be buried next to her
at the Adamsville Cemetery in Adamsville, Tennessee.
Sheriff Buford Pusser,
after all these many years, still remains a controversial figure.
During his time as Sheriff,
he will be shot eight times, stabbed seven.
He will locate and destroy over 40 stills
in his first year in office.
He will kill two people in the line of duty.
He will be ambushed and lose his wife.
At the same time, he will not be the only lawman
capable of taking revenge on his enemies
outside of the law.
Wyatt Earp comes to mind.
Sheriff Buford Pusser was 36 years old.