The New York Times, Thursday, August 22, 1974
Buford Pusser, Sheriff Depicted In ‘Walking Tall’ Film, Is Dead
Buford whose exploits as a crusading sheriff in McNairy County, Tennessee, were related in the hit movie “Walking Tall,” was killed in a traffic accident early yesterday, only hours after he had agreed to star in a sequel to the movie that made him famous.
According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Mr. Pusser, who was 36 years old, died when his red sports car careened off Highway 64 near Selmer, Tennessee crashed into an embankment and caught fire.
Mr. Pusser elected sheriff of McNairy County in 1964, immediately started a crime-busting clean-up of gambling, prostitution, and moonshining in the county. Often he personally smashed up gambling equipment using a pick-ax.
There were at least seven attempts on Mr. Pusser’s life, including one in 1967 when his wife Pauline were driving along a country road near the town of New Hope. Their car was sprayed with .30 caliber bullets and Mrs. Pusser was killed.
The movie version of Mr. Pusser’s life ended with the shooting and his hospitalization with half his face shot away. However 14 plastic surgery operations gave him a new appearance and by wearing his hair longer, Mr. Pusser was able to cover up the scars from the ambush.
In addition to being shot at, Mr. Pusser was knifed and beaten several times and once, thrown from a window. He often related in kind, and in some quarters he was criticized for being too tough a law enforcement officer, tending as one Tennessee newspaper put it, “to overkill in the pursuit of justice.”
By 1970, Mr. Pusser had become legendary in the South. The movie “Walking Tall” starred Joe Don Baker, but for the sequel, “Buford,” Bing Crosby Productions had tested Mr. Pusser and decided he could play himself. He was on his way back to his home in Adamsville, Tennessee when he was killed. Mr. Pusser is survived by a daughter.