Statesville Record And Landmark from Statesville, North Carolina on May 4, 1974 · Page 36
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Statesville Record And Landmark from Statesville, North Carolina · Page 36

Statesville, North Carolina
Issue Date:
Saturday, May 4, 1974
Page 36
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Possibly For Wrong Reasons One-Time Sheriff Becomes Legendary By ELLIE GROSSMAN NEW YORK - (NEA) - Try to get hold of it and you're likely to end up with a fistful of smoke. The story surrounding Buford Pusser, one-time sheriff of McNairy County, Tennessee, ' currently lionized in the movie "Walking Tall," is riddled with controversy and confusion. The only certainty is that the movie has grossed $30 million since its release last March and Buford Pusser is becoming legendary — possibly for the wrong reasons. Pusser spent six violent years as sheriff during the 1960s patrolling *" the state line between Tennessee and Mississippi. The prostitution, gambling and illegal whiskey which were flourishing there brought him into collision with members of the "syndicate" and he matched them blow for blow, suffering stabbings, shootings and the loss of his wife in an ambush. Still, the question remains: is Pusser really the heroic one-man blitz against crime the press • agents for "Walking Tall" are packaging, or is he a violence- loving brute who enforced the law as he saw Bt — who, even now has a goodly number of the people down home intimidated? "I wa's in Vietnam for two years and I encountered more fear in , McNairy County than I did there. It's the first time in my life I had to ^ go outside a town to get affidavits signed." So says Cammy Wilson, a reporter for the Dayton Daily News who spent several weeks in McNairy County researching a story on Pusser. "He's done as much harm as the people he fought in many cases," states one Tennessee newsman who backed away from attribution. He was not alone. Several people interviewed b'y telephone said they were afraid to talk about Pusser on the record. Again and again, McNairy county residents used the word "suspicious" to describe circumstances surrounding several of Pusser's exploits. But when queried about being quoted, they responded firmly: "No ma'am. In no way." Pusser, at six-feet-six and 250 pounds, is colossal. After 15 plastic i surgery operations, he's wired and tacked together, but he's still a "mean old husky guy," as one • , acquaintance puts it. Immaculate and disarmingly soft-spoken, Pusser understandably prefers the movie version of his exploits, although a disclaimer in the fllm indicates the plot was "suggested" by certain actions in his life. He grants events have been "glamorized", but he resents being questioned about the disparities between "Walking Tall," and "The Twelfth of August," his biography written by ' W. R. Morris. One' central incident bears airing. In the book's account of the hickory-etick episode which has carried him to fame, Pusser is happily ensconced in Chicago with a newbrkle, a job at the Union Bag Company, and a weekend agenda of wrestling bouts. He and two friends are suddenly eitradicted to Mississippi on charges of armed •,, A robbery and assault brought by the owner of a state line club where, some time earlier, Pusser had been cheated at dice and beaten to the tune of 192 stitches. Pusser stews about being framed, pleads innocent, and is acquitted. In "Walking Tall," Pusser, home from Chicago with his family, reluctantly visits one of the cheap clubs that have sprung up in the area since he left, aids a friend being cheated, and is beaten severely. When the sheriff refuses to act, Pusser later returns with his hickory stick and fractures bones. The jury acquits him. Nowadays, Pusser verifies the book's version, then goes on to admit that he and his friends lied to the jury in Mississippi uncjer cover of a pre-arranged alibi in Chicago. In her story for the Dayton Daily News, Cammy Wilson alleges Pusser extorted payoffs from state-line joint owners, quotes his step-daughter who describes Pusser as' 'a man to be afraid of," and discredits the legitimacy of "Walking Tall." Pusser claims the reporter was paid off. "Her mother was about to lose her home in Mississippi," he says. "Cammy was contacted by these people involved in the crime now on the state line and she stayed some weeks to do the story. Then she came up with the $1,500 payment for the house Npw you tell me: is a paper in Dayton, Ohio, going to send someone 500 miles to write a story and pay her salary all that time?" Yes, replies James Dygert, Wilson's city editor. "The movie was playing in Dayton at that time (October 1973) and we knew Cammy was from Mississippi, so we assigned her to go down and do the story. She was on salary." In a feature in. The Nashville Tennessean, Pusser is depicted signing copies of "The Twelfth of August." At first mention of the book, however, he dismisses it with a wave of his hand. "There's not a bit of truth to it," he says. "The book was written without my permission. They were trying to use me. I have'never read the book." Pressed on the point, he concedes, "I skimmed it." He claims the author never interviewed him, that the dates are often wrong and that, for one small thing, he doesn't cuss the way they say he did. "Before the book was ever published, Buford made a special trip to read it—and he did, page by page," author Morris says hotly. "There were lots of things in the book he didn't like but he did endorse it as his official biography, especially when the movie came out: Buford's angry with me because he says I'm destroying his movie image. I've been getting caUs from all over because the movie and the book are so different and he gets angry when he finds out what I'm telling people." Author and subject are currently embroiled in a royalty dispute over foebook, and Morris is dispatching press releases touting a new book, "The Real Buford Pusser," which reportedly will reflect "the type of man Buford Pusser actually is... how McNairy citizens fed about him." It's a tough part of the country, McNairy County, where juries, they say, don't bring in many murder convictions because they! tend to empathize with the accused. Pusser, involved in two killingsassheriff.wasadjudgedby grand juries to have acted in self- defense. In the county, witnesses are more difficult to find than the holy grail. Pusser's detractors, including W. R. Morris, say there were never any witnesses to the run-ins he had. The "niceties" of the law are often considered luxuries, according to.some local residents. Pusser himself says with a hint of a smile: "I'm sure everything I did wasn't right within the law. Of course, I think the law is based on good common horse sense." MORGAN PAULL, as Jimmy O'Neil,-a friendly cop ln|ured in the line of duty, received special attention from Pat Anderson, as Lisa, in '.'Dirty O'Neil," which plays Wednesday through Saturday at the Playhouse Theater. Writer Moves Up In Field Alda Eyes New Series BUFORD PUSSER NEW YORK (AP) — Alan Alda has a system for fighting homesickness when he's in Los Angeles filming "M-A^S-H." He writes. But because of this system he'll have to .work doubly hard this summer and next fall. He now has a second CBS series to worry about. It's "We'll Get By," a half-hour comedy show coming up in September. Alda created it, has written six scripts for it and will be its co-producer. Alda, who lives in suburban New Jersey with his wife and three ki'ds when "M-A-SJF isn't shooting, was at home with them, toiling at the typewriter, when asked how he found time to write the new show. " Wen, I 'm out there (Hollywood) by myself," he said. "And because my family's back here in New Jersey, I keep myself busy with work so I don't get lonely. So I'd write at night and on weekends." The new show isn'Uhe first TV writing he's done. The Manhattan- born actor said he'd written two "M-A-S-H" scripts that were filmed and a pilot for another proposed series ABC turned down last year. The proposed series was about New York politics, Alda said. Was it also a comedy? "It would have to be, wouldn't it? "he asked. "We'll Get By" has an unlikely premise for a comedy series. It's about a sales engineer, his wife and three children. Like Alda, they live in suburban New Jersey. "There isn't anything about it that sounds like a funny idea, but I think that's one of its strong points," Alda said. "It's not a gimmick show. "It's an attempt to show, with a sense of humor, people really living in a family. Which hasn't been done yet. There are no funny 'situations,' no cute kids with cute problems." Alda, who is co-producing the show with Marc Merson, will supervise the script-writing. He'll head back to Los Angeles in mid- May to start production both on "M-A-S-H" and the new series. DRIVE-IN • 873-3082 ! At US 70 Exit BOX OFFICE OPENS 7:00 FIRST FEATURE AT 8:20 ONLY THIS TIME THE BULLETS ARE HITTING PRETTY CLOSE TO HOME TONIGHT [THROUGH TUESDAY ADMISSION $1.50 UNDER 12 FREE ALSO 2ND FEATURE GUN GIRLS COMffARLY EAT OUT TONIGHT SHRIMP ft CHICKEN] BASKETS -SPECIAL- FRIDAY A SATURDAY HAM BISCUITS 3 FOR $1.00 THE SOUTH'S MOST MODERN DRIVE-IN CINEMA

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