Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Biloxi Confidential

"Walking Tall"

On August 11, 1967, according to Humes' account, Nix and three other men checked into the Shamrock Motel just across Mississippi's northern border in McNairy County, Tenn. The motel was run by a close friend of Nix's, another Dixie Mafia hit man, named Carl Douglas "Towhead" White, who was in jail at the time on charges of bootlegging.

Walking Tall movie poster
Walking Tall movie poster

The border region between Mississippi and Tennessee at the time was a hotbed of illegal activity. The same type of activity occurred there that was so popular 300 miles further south in Biloxi: gambling and prostitution, with bootlegging thrown in, since much of southern Tennessee consisted of dry counties. White had come up from Biloxi to get a piece of that profitable action. He probably hadn't counted on the fierce, determined opposition of the McNairy County Sheriff. If he had, he might have thought twice about venturing into that region.

Buford Pusser
Buford Pusser

The sheriff's name was Buford Pusser, of Walking Tall book, movie and later television fame. Unlike many law enforcement authorities in Biloxi, Pusser was not one to look the other way when illegal activities were being carried out in his jurisdiction. He was on a mission to clean up McNairy County, by whatever means necessary. White, in prison, was learning that the hard way.

When Nix and his three companions arrived at the Shamrock Motel, they knew their assignment: to settle accounts with Pusser. The year before, Pusser had gone to the Shamrock to arrest White's girlfriend, Louise Hathcock, on a robbery charge and Hathcock allegedly had pulled a gun on him. Pusser fired quickly, killing her. White swore revenge and called upon his friend Kirksey Nix to handle the messy details.

The day after Nix's arrival, just before dawn, Pusser received a phone call at his home reporting a disturbance on the edge of the town in which he and his wife lived. Two drunks were reported to be having a fight, and the caller said he feared someone was going to get killed. Pusser threw on his clothes and rushed out to investigate. His wife, Pauline, decided to go along for the ride.

As Pusser raced down a country road toward the location where the disturbance was reported, a new Cadillac pulled out from its hiding place behind a church and ran up alongside his official vehicle. With guns pointing from open windows in the Cadillac, Nix and his companions opened fire on Pusser, seriously wounding him and killing his wife. The Cadillac sped off, leaving the Pussers for dead, Nix probably thinking his marching orders had been carried out.

However, the famed sheriff survived, and he lived long enough to exact revenge against White and three of the four alleged killers. All except Nix. While White and three of the alleged gunmen ended up on the wrong side of bullets themselves over the next few years, Nix kept a wide berth between himself and the vengeful lawman. He knew better than to ever again venture onto Pusser's turf, or anywhere near it. Pusser's methods of meting out justice went beyond those of conventional law enforcement when it suited his needs to do so. Like the Dixie Mafia, his sworn enemies, he too had means of getting things done unofficially by cohorts willing to execute his mandates.

Pusser died in an auto accident in 1974 before he could complete his cycle of vengeance by ending Nix's criminal career. Had that come to pass, at least four other people might still be alive today, two of whom were Vincent and Margaret Sherry.

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