Sunday, April 07, 2024

Is the Walking Tall, Buford Pusser Legend a Hoax?

McNary County, Tennessee—Hollywood made four films about the heroic Tennessee sheriff, Buford Pusser.  A museum was built in his memory.  He shot and killed at least one woman who allegedly tried to murder him in connection with his investigations of gambling, moonshine, drugs and prostitution.

Buford’s wife, Pauline was apparently shot to death in August 1967. Buford also suffered a gunshot wound.  Buford claimed that he was ambushed while responding to a call.  He said that he brought his wife along in his patrol car as he responded.  I think most cops, like me would frown at the idea of bringing your wife or girlfriend on a call for police service.

Let me make it clear that I was never involved in any investigation of Sheriff Pusser’s various events. 

I met their daughter, Dwana when she was 25.  She was selling quite handsome and expensive Colt Python revolvers that commemorated her father and his Walking Tall legend.  Dwana told me she thought I looked just like the man who played her daddy in Walking Tall part two. That was the late actor, Brian Dennehy. 

The initial Pusser ambush investigation apparently was pretty slipshod since they did not even conduct an autopsy of Pauline‘s remains.  No suspects were ever located nor any arrests made.  

The Tennessee Bureau of investigation has very recently reopened this case, exhumed, Pauline Pusser’s body some six decades later.  Only now, are the forensic pathologists and toxicologist looking at those remains.  

Buford and Pauline‘s neighbor Diane Vance told others what happened just before the alleged ambush.  Allegedly, DianeVance heard the Pussers having a violent fight complete with a gunshot.  Diane said she was so frightened she hid under a bed.  She claimed to see Buford carry Pauline to his patrol car putting her into it.

Supposedly, Buford changed his story at least twice to a friendly audience of investigating cops that accepted Buford’s claims.  

My suspicion, if Diane Vance’s supposed story was true, this may have been a failed murder/suicide.  It looks like Buford changed his mind after he shot himself and was still conscious.  Or Buford may have been incapable of shooting himself a second time due to his initial gunshot wound.  

Today the involved car or Pauline’s and Buford’s clothing cannot be examined, and today’s autopsy may be hampered by severe decomposition of Pauline’s remains.  We can’t now guess where Buford’s service revolver is today.  He could have easily replaced it.  It’s also difficult to guess just yet if any spent bullets remain in the exhumed body.  .357 magnum bullets often exit human bodies and are often never recovered. 

The Walking Tall legend turned out to be quite a money machine and perhaps that is why we never heard denials from Dwana.  Fortune and fame along perhaps with a terrible memory may well have triggered a reason why Dwana later used a gun to kill herself.  When I met Dwana, in Phoenix, Arizona at a NRA annual gun show, I found her to be a delightful young lady with an incredibly pronounced hillbilly accent.

Buford’s Pusser was killed in a one car accident August of 1974.  He was in his Chevrolet Corvette traveling at high speed on the highway.. Apparently he lost control of his vehicle for reasons that never made sense.  His daughter Dwana’ told me that they spent a lot of money on private investigators and accident re-constructionists trying to learn if the crash was related to a criminal attack.   No such evidenced surfaced.  

I don’t know that the current investigation will change anything at all .  But you must wonder what will happen should this reopened investigation implicate Buford Pusser in his wife’s murder.  Was this all a colossal hoax?

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