Walking Tall True Story: On the morning of August 12, 1967, shortly before sunrise, McNairy County Sheriff Buford Pusser received a call reporting a disturbance on a side road just outside town. Despite the fact that it was early in the morning, his wife Pauline chose to join him in the investigation. One of the cars came up alongside theirs as they were driving through the tiny Tennessee town on their way to the scene of the incident.
A disturbance on New Hope Road in McNairy County was reported to Pusser via phone just before dawn on August 12, 1967, according to Pusser, who responded with his wife Pauline. When they were about to pass the New Hope Methodist Church, a vehicle pulled up beside them, and the driver opened fire, killing Pauline and leaving Pusser for dead.
His jaw was hit on the left side by at least two, and probably three, bullets from a.30-caliber carbine, according to the doctors who attended to him. Prior to coming home, he spent 18 days in the hospital, and he had many more operations to restore his look after that.
A year after swearing that he would bring the killers of his wife to justice, Pusser was unable to bring Kirksey Nix or any of the other suspects to trial. Nix was condemned to life in prison at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola for the murder of New Orleans grocer Frank J. Corso on Easter Saturday, 1971. Nix was subsequently implicated in the 1987 assassination of Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife Margaret in Biloxi, Mississippi, which was carried out as a hit-and-run.
In addition to Nix, his co-conspirator, Biloxi Mayor Pete Halat, had taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from Nix and put it on Judge Sherry, who was his law firm partner. Nix was convicted of ordering a hit from jail and was sentenced to life imprisonment in an isolation cell. According to an Associated Press article published in The Town Talk, a newspaper in Alexandria, Louisiana, in 1990, Nix denied any involvement in the ambush of the Pussers’ convoy of horses.
Pusser was wounded and Pauline was killed when the occupants of the vehicle opened fire on the car they were driving. Pusser was knocked out by two bullets to the left side of his jaw, and he was declared dead. It took him 18 days and many operations to heal, but he was eventually able to return to his normal life.
With his damaged jaw and no wife, he had only one thought on his mind when he came home. He wanted vengeance. Buford Pusser made a promise to himself at the time that if it were the last thing he did, he would bring everyone responsible for his wife’s death to justice.
In his previous life, Buford Pusser was an honorable man who was motivated by vengeance for his wife. He was born and reared in McNairy County, Tennessee, where he excelled at basketball and football in high school, two sports in which he was naturally gifted owing to his 6-foot-6-inch stature. Following high school, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, but he was ultimately medically discharged due to his severe asthma attack. Then he relocated to Chicago, where he established himself as a professional wrestler.
His height and strength gave him the moniker “Buford the Bull,” and his achievements elevated him to a position of prominence in his hometown. While in Chicago, Pusser met Pauline, who would become his future wife. It was in December 1959 that the two were united in marriage, and it was two years later that they returned to Pusser’s hometown.