tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 36: the Buford Pusser edition

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera is a sometimes substantial but not making any promises glimpse at some information and news related to Generation X in the Deep South.


A wrestler-turned-sheriff versus the bad guys, 1960s

The first reports come in the 1960s about the small-town Tennessee sheriff who had federal law enforcement helping him to raid moonshine stills and combat crime. Buford Pusser’s name and image can be found in professional wrestling advertisements in the very early 1960s, before he became the police chief in Adamsville then the sheriff of McNairy County. By 1963, his name was appearing in the newspaper as he led the charge against illegal liquor producers and other criminals. But it was rough going. In one report in The Tennesseean from January 1965, Pusser and the FBI returned to their cars to find them destroyed, along with all of their equipment. Retaliations like these were common. Two years later, it got much worse, and his mythology began.

Assassination attempt, 1967

By 1967, the headlines had gotten more frequent, and on August 12, 29-year-old Buford Pusser was the target of an assassination attempt. He was riding his car with this wife when it was riddled by gunfire. Sheriff Pusser was wounded, but his wife Pauline was killed. The attack was brutal. Law enforcement officials found bullets or casings from a 30-30, a 30-06, and a .44 magnum. One witness called it “the worst thing I’ve ever seen.” The ambush appeared to have been a set-up, because an unknown person had called Buford’s father to request that he be sent to a home. Initially, the young sheriff said no, that he would not go on the call, but the person called the Adamsville Police Station and insisted that he come “right away.”

Two songs by Eddie Bond, 1970

Publication of The Twelfth of August, 1971

Tennessee native WR Morris wrote this account of Buford Pusser’s story, which was a bestseller in its day. Morris was born in Reagan, Tennessee in 1934 and served in the Air Force in the mid-1950s. His book sold well but, unfortunately, it did not receive universal acclaim. After its release in November 1971, Nashville’s Tennesseean said it was “as exciting as Pusser’s life,” while the Memphis Commercial Appeal‘s reviewer wrote: “If there’s an award for the undefinitive biography of 1971, The Twelfth of August would win it hands down. It’s a downright shoddy account [containing] silly dialogue, misspellings, and oozy hero-worship.” Morris later wrote another one on the subject,The State-Line Mob, which was published in 1990.

The release of Walking Tall, February 22, 1973

This now-classic film, starring Joe Don Baker as Buford Pusser, was widely hailed in our youthful circles as being rare due to its extreme violence. Released when even the oldest GenXers were still small children, the movie’s setting and plot contained backwoods bars, prostitutes in trailers, bloody brawls, and violence against law enforcement— not exactly kids’ stuff. Alongside the more palatable portrayals of outlaws in Smokey and the Bandit and The Dukes of Hazzard, Walking Tall was the hard stuff. This time, the bootleggers were not friendly, smiling goof-offs in search of a good time but instead were men who would blast a country sheriff with a shotgun while his wife was in the car with him. It took most of us a long time – well into the 1980s – before we would see this movie, but it still lingered in sense of our Southern-ness as the coup de grace of what a badass was. And we learned that a badass carries a big ol’ stick.

The car crash, 1974

On August 21, 1974, 36-year-old Buford Pusser was killed in a fiery car crash. He was driving home from the county fair in his new Corvette, and his teenage daughter was in the car behind his. Witnesses say he swerved off the road then was thrown from the car, which burned up. In yet another tragic twist to his life story, his daughter watched him by the side of the road.

The TV movie A Real American Hero, 1978

It’s possible that enough people wanted to see a movie about Buford Pusser, but Walking Tall was just too violent. If that was the case, the made-for-TV movie starring Brian Dennehey could have been the answer to the problem.


level:deepsouth is an online anthology about growing up Generation X in the Deep South during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The anthology is open to submissions of creative nonfiction (essays, memoirs, and reviews), fiction, poetry, and images (photos and flyers), as well as to contributions for the lists.

Generation X Deep South

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 35: the Iron Bowl (and other rivalries)

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera is a sometimes substantial but not making any promises glimpse at some information and news related to Generation X in the Deep South.


Generation X grew up with some of the best college football rivalry games ever played. We watched them on big bulky TVs that might have petered out when the rabbit-ear antenna wasn’t positioned just right. Some of us saw them only in black and white, or listened to them on the radio with our granddads. A few lucky ducks actually got to go to the game. No matter whether the rival was in-state or just nearby, there was no way to anyone would miss out. And that’s especially true of the Iron Bowl in Alabama.

The Iron Bowl is well-known nationally as one of the most intense rivalries in all of sports, and GenXers experienced some of the best of those games. One of the most famous Iron Bowls is known simply by the phrase “Punt, Bama, Punt!” In 1972, #9 Auburn played #2 Alabama and won the game by a point (17-16) in a comeback that was made possible by blocking two punts.

Other memorable games were the 1982 “Bo over to the top” game and the first game ever played in Jordan Hare, in 1989. Among Bama fans’ best memories would be the 1985 game that was won by a Van Tiffen field goal.

Of course, the 1970s were still the heyday of Alabama’s Bear Bryant, who retired in 1983, and the early 1980s had Bo Jackson – considered by some to be the greatest athlete of all time – playing for the Tigers.

From 1970 to 1999, the Crimson Tide won 19 of the 30 games, and that included a winning streak that lasted from 1973 to 1981. Auburn has it own shorter four-game winning streak in the late 1980s. All but five of the games were played at Legion Field in Birmingham, and then an era ended: the last Iron Bowl at Legion Field was in 1998. Auburn hosted in 1999, and Bama began hosting their turn at Bryant-Denny in 2000.

Other rivalry games in the Deep South:

The Egg Bowl: Ole Miss vs Mississippi State

The South’s Oldest Rivalry: Auburn vs. Georgia

Alabama vs. Tennessee

Alabama vs. LSU

South Carolina vs. Georgia

Georgia vs. Georgia Tech

 

 


level:deepsouth is an online anthology about growing up Generation X in the Deep South during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The anthology is open to submissions of creative nonfiction (essays, memoirs, and reviews), fiction, poetry, and images (photos and flyers), as well as to contributions for the lists.

Generation X Deep South

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 34

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera is a sometimes substantial but not making any promises glimpse at some information and news related to Generation X in the Deep South.


I-630 cuts through Little Rock, 1969 – 1985

excerpt: “The first mile of I-630 that bisected Little Rock was completed in 1969, but construction was halted soon after. From the start, the project faced legal challenges and backlash from the Arkansas Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) for its impact on the Black communities and businesses the road was displacing and isolating. Despite an attempted freeway revolt, the community failed to halt construction permanently, and the 8-mile expressway was completed and opened to the public in 1985.”

The death penalty in Florida, October 1972

After the Furman v Georgia Supreme Court ruling in June 1972, Florida became the first state in the US to pass a law that reinstitute the death penalty on the state level. This, of course, was not on the radar of most GenXers, the oldest of whom were seven at the time, but because other Southern states quickly followed suit, it meant that we grew up in the age of the death penalty. Today, all eleven Southern states have it. Alabama is the only state in the nation where a judge can override a jury and impose a death sentence when the jury recommended life without parole.

University Mall opens in Tuscaloosa, August 1980

The largest shopping mall in west Alabama opened on the site of the Northington Naval Hospital, which was demolished a few years earlier. The reason that it was possible for the mall to be built where it was, according to Wikipedia, is: “These [hospital] ruins were finally destroyed during the filming of the climactic scene of the 1978 Burt Reynolds film Hooper.” 

A “White Christmas” in Savannah, Georgia, 1989

an excerpt, from Savannah Magazine: “On Christmas Day, Savannah was still blanketed in white precipitation. It was the first White Christmas in recorded Savannah history. There hasn’t been another since.”

The Knoxville newspaper Fourteen Days, 1991

Though few details about this newspaper can be found, the Library of Congress’s records say that it was a biweekly published by “M. Freeman.” A termination date is unknown in all pertinent records.


level:deepsouth is an online anthology about growing up Generation X in the Deep South during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The anthology is open to submissions of creative nonfiction (essays, memoirs, and reviews), fiction, poetry, and images (photos and flyers), as well as to contributions for the lists.