McNairy sheriff shot, wife slain in ambush
By John Smith
In the early hours on the night of August 12, 1967, Sheriff Buford Pusser received a call at home. The caller told Buford that there was serious trouble flaring up on New Hope Road. The caller told Buford that there were some drunks threatening to shoot each other and if he didn’t get there quickly there were going to be some dead people in the street.
After hanging up the phone, Buford jumped out of bed and began to put his uniform on. While Buford was trying to get dressed, Pauline got up and said she was going along with Buford since she was already up and the kids were at Buford’s mother’s house.
As the Sheriff and his wife were riding down New Hope Road, neither of them heard the black Cadillac approaching from behind. As the Cadillac got closer it pulled along side the Sheriff and his wife. When the Cadillac was right beside Buford’s car, the shots began and struck Pauline in the head area. Pauline sank in the seat holding on to her husband’s arm.
Pusser knew his wife had been shot and that he had to get down the road to get away from these madmen. Buford drove nearly two miles down New Hope Road before coming to a complete stop.
While Buford was checking the condition of his wife the black Cadillac appeared again this time rendering point blank shots at the Sheriff and his wife. The second series of shots from the gunmen are the ones that hit Buford in the face, and a second one hitting Pauline for the second time. After the shots, Buford said the gunmen must have thought they had killed both of them since they flew off in their car. Buford told his dying wife how much he loved her and that he would get revenge for what they had done to his beautiful wife.
Buford was transported to the medical facility in Selmer, then transferred to Baptist Hospital in Memphis. While Buford was a patient in Memphis, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Dept. thought it would be best if they kept a deputy around the clock at Buford’s door of the hospital.
Although Buford was in the County hospital, it didn’t stop Chief Deputy Sheriff Jim Moffet along with State, County, and Federal Law-Enforcement officers from investigating the case.
Moffet and TBI Agents found eleven bullet holes in Buford’s Plymouth along with 14 empty .30 caliber cartridge cases.
Just hours after the shooting, rumors that Buford had shot his wife began. The fact that people would start such a blatant lie about Buford made many citizens of McNairy county angry. Authorities investigating the terrible incident stated that they shared the same opinion as the citizens.
Because Buford was in the hospital and in poor condition, he was not able to attend his wife’s funeral. Buford returned home eighteen days later after undergoing extensive plastic surgery performed by Rufus Cravens.
Buford’s mother told her son that a local postal worker, James Hall, had taped the funeral services if he wanted to listen to them. Buford, still in disbelief and bitter towards the killers, told her that he had no desire to think about that tragic day with his loving wife.
Buford decided that it was time to change his artillery from a 12 gauge shotgun to an M-16 carbine. He also changed his .41 caliber magnum to a .357 magnum and started driving a new Oldsmobile Toronado. From that day on, Buford vowed to find the men that took a piece of his life away.
Back to History Page