56 years after his death, the body of Tennessee state champion Buford Pusser’s wife, Pauline Pusser, has been exhumed
Pauline Bowser has been dead for 56 years with no suspect in the case.
On Thursday, authorities exhumed the body of her, the wife of the hard-line Sharif Buford PusserWho became known as a posthumous folk hero in Tennessee.
Pauline was shot dead in an ambush that was supposed to kill her husband.
An overcast day with whistling winds sent a foul odor through the cemetery in Adamsville, a small town about 100 miles east of Memphis, after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents who supervised the exhumation departed on Thursday.
Disturbed dirt in front of her grave remains next to her husband’s tombstone that reads, “He Walked Long.”
A recent tip prompted a review of the case, and they discovered that an autopsy was never performed after Pauline Bowser’s death on Aug. 12, 1967, the TBI said.
“With the support of Pauline’s family and in consultation with 25th Judicial District Attorney Mark Davidson, the TBI has requested an exhumation in an effort to answer critical questions and provide important information that may help identify the person or persons responsible for Pauline Bowser’s death,” the TBI said.
Buford Pusser and the Ambush
Pauline Busser was only 33 years old when she was murdered. She was a mother of three children.
The August 13, 1967, edition of The Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network, said that Pusser had been killed and that her husband “suffered a serious wound to the jaw when Pusser’s runabout was shot at at dawn on a lonely country road.”
Hugh Kirkpatrick, then police chief in the nearby town of Selmer, said he heard a radio call from Buford Pusser around 6:20 a.m. They were found about a mile north of the Tennessee-Mississippi state line on U.S. Route 45.
“The sheriff and his wife were on their way to investigate a complaint at the time,” the article stated.
The article stated that Buford was sitting behind the wheel of his car and Pauline was lying on the seat with her head in his lap.
“Kirkpatrick said Bowser told him the shooting occurred on New Hope Road about three miles from the state line,” the article said. Investigators said they found 14 empty .30-caliber cartridges scattered on the road near where Bowser said the ambush occurred.
Pusser’s car was hit 11 times. Buford Bowser was taken to McEnery County General Hospital, then to Baptist Hospital in Memphis.
One of the investigators said in the article that they believed the couple had fallen into a trap. The TBI, formerly the Tennessee Bureau of Criminal Identification, said they have two prime suspects.
But 56 years later, the case remains unsolved.
Investigators are searching for answers
Questions have been raised about the role of an iconic southern sheriff in his wife’s death in 1967.
Buford Pusser, who rose to fame thanks to two Hollywood films and several books about his life, said he and his wife, Pauline, were ambushed on Aug. 12, 1967, as they were driving to a 4:45 a.m. disturbance call just outside Selmer. Pauline was shot to death at the scene, and Buford was shot in the chin but survived.
Mike Elam, a former sheriff from Arkansas who wrote a self-published book called “Buford Pusser: The Other Story,” said he provided tips about the case to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Allam said he believes cold case investigators are trying to find answers to three main questions:
Was Pauline Bowser killed in an ambush on New Hope Road or elsewhere?
Was the fatal bullet fired from the front or from the back?
Does the forensics match the story Buford Pusser told about the shooting?
“I think they’ll look at the entrance and exit wounds,” Elam said. “I passed a lot of information to TBI.”
Buford Pusser’s life became a national story in 1971 when the book “August Twelfth” by W.R. Morris was published.
The cemeteries, Pusser’s house and a memorial marking Buford’s fatal car accident were attractions for Adamsville tourists or fans of the “Walking Tall” series.
“Walking Tall”, a film starring Joe Don Baker, was released in 1973, and a remake starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was released in 2004. In the films, Buford Pusser is a heroic character who preferred to use a nut stick as a heroic figure . Weapon instead of gun.
“This is a Hollywood legend,” Elam said.
Elam said he would wait to hear the results of the tests that were obtained on Thursday.
“The real question is the trajectory of the bullet,” Elam said.
Buford Pusser’s legacy
The name Buford Pusser is notorious in Tennessee. He stood large for most people at 6 feet tall and was known for cleaning up McEnery County, located at the southern tip of the state on the Tennessee-Mississippi border, and imprisoning criminals that had been rampant before his tenure.
He was elected mayor in 1964 after serving as Adamsville’s police chief for three years.
Two years later, he was in his first shootout, killing Louise Haithcock, the owner and operator of the Shamrock Hotel, after she shot him while he was there investigating several robberies, according to The Tennessean. Then in January 1967, he was shot three times, twice in the face and once in the arm, while stopping a motorist for reckless driving.
Buford Bowser was also stabbed twice and one of the astronauts tried to run him over, according to the 1967 article.
He served as mayor of the city until 1970.
The sheriff’s life has inspired numerous adaptations in Hollywood. The first film, Walking Tall, was released in 1973, six years after his wife’s death. This led to two more films, a television series, and a final film in 2004 starring Dwayne Johnson.
Buford Pusser only lived to see the first film. He died leaving the McEnery County Fairgrounds in August 1974 when he lost control of his Corvette and crashed into an embankment on U.S. 64 near his hometown, The Commercial Appeal, part of the USA TODAY Network, reported.
He was 36 years old.
Contributing: Sarah Best
This article originally appeared in Nashville Tennessee: The body of Pauline Pusser, wife of the famous Sheriff Buford Pusser, was exhumed
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