Saturday, 20 September 2014

Walking Tall - Buford Pusser & The Dixie Mafia

Do you remember the hard hitting 1973 film "Walking Tall" starring Joe Don Baker, as a club wielding former marine?  In the film, he has a scuffle with local crooks and ends up getting carved up, but recovers to become sheriff and takes on the villains.  His character was called Buford Pusser, and was actually a real sheriff.  He operated in Tennessee, and fought what was called the Dixie Mafia.  These were not part of the traditional Italian Mafia but a collection of organised villains whose activities, particularly in bootlegging, stretches back to before Prohibition.  The areas of operation are generally Atlanta, and Mississippi.  Particularly in Biloxi.  After the Government used the Biloxi Country Club as a military training ground during WW2, around half a million military personnel passed through it.  This provided a very rich source of income for local villains, with booze, gambling, money lending and hookers.

    After the war, a man called Jack Hathcock ran a restaurant and dance hall in Phoenix City.  Nobody should be surprised that this "eating establishment" was simply a brothel and gambling club, serving bootlegged Moonshine.  The games were inevitably crooked and any complaints were dealt with extremely violently.  With crooked cops on the take Hathcock for many years, ruled the roost.  Then, a very tough new Sheriff was elected; Buford Pusser.  He took on Hathcock.  Then Hathcock was killed by another villain named Carl White, but he was never convicted of murder after he stated that he acted in self defence.  Whilst he was about it, he took up with the wife of Hathcock, Louise.  She showed her propensity for violence when one day Pusser went to arrest her for robbery in February 1966.  She shot at him and was not firing warning shots.  Pusser returned fire, killing her.  White waited then in the following year, he organised an ambush, firing repeatedly at Pusser and his wife, as they made their way to church in New Hope.  Pusser was seriously injured but his wife died.  
    White was never charged with this attack, but in 1969, he too, met a violent death, at the hands of Berry Smith.  He also took the White line of defence, claiming self defence.  Pusser cited a man named Kirksey Nix as being involved in his wife`s death but Nix was never faced any charges.  Buford Pusser was to die in a car crash in August 1974 in his hometown of Adamsville.  A remake of "Walking Tall" was made starring The Rock.