Photo courtesy of Find A Grave
“I’d just as soon have Al Capone gunning for me as Louise Hathcock” – Deputy Peatie Plunk
She’s been called the Queen of the State Line Mob. She’s been called ruthless and bloodthirsty, and she definitely wasn’t a “Mob Moll.” Louise Hathcock was the mobster, and the local men were her companions.
Laura Louise Anderson was born on Wednesday, March 19, 1919, to Shelton and Bessie Anderson. After the stock market crash in 1929 and her father leaving in 1935, Louise was moved to McNairy County, Tennessee. By eighteen, Louise decided her life was going to be different. She refused to be dirt poor, and she would do anything to change it. With her mother’s help, Louise landed a job working as a bookkeeper for Nelson Timlake at the State Line Club. Tennessee would never be the same.
The precocious teenager flirted with every man that came near and found she liked the game of “conquering” men, but there was one that seemed oblivious to her advances; Jack Hathcock. Of course, forbidden fruit is always the most enticing, so soon Louise began pursuing Jack relentlessly. He too would fall prey to her feminine wiles, and eventually asked her to marry him. There was one problem with this proposal. She wasn’t sure she wanted Jack now. She had lost interest, but he was on his way to the top, and she wanted to be rich and powerful. Louise finally agreed to become Mrs. Hathcock.
Now we have a name change, but what changed Louise from a money-hungry, promiscuous teenager to the ruthless mobster? That process would take time, bloodshed, and a lot of pain. While Jack promised her a life filled with excitement, money, and good times, Louise Hathcock found bloodshed, brutality, male domination, and fear.
One of many breaking points came in February 1940. Louise had grown tired of Jack’s domestic abuse and his utter domination. Louise had been stepping out on Jack, and this time Nelson Timlake found out about it. Nelson was like a serrogate father to Jack after his own father died, so this infuriated him as if she had been cheating on his own son.
Nelson told Jack what happened and where to find his wife. Jack and a friend tore out of town to chase down the wayward bride. No one was going to make Jack Hathcock look like a punk. After a brutal ordeal, Louise was nearly killed and ended up in the hospital. Of course, the sheriff was paid off, and the beaten woman was “encouraged” to drop all charges.
After this brutal encounter with her husband and his friends, Louise knew she would not let herself get into such a situation again. No man was going to brutalize the 5’2″ Louise again. Fear kept her in line for a little while, but this prison wouldn’t hold the fire growing inside her. The bouncers would make sure Louise didn’t get to close to any of the customers and kept her under a watchful eye.
Instead of turning away from the violence, Louise began to embrace it, and her eager mind began soaking up the knowledge of the state line’s inner workings. It might take awhile, but eventually Louise Hathcock would become the mobster and the men around her would become her “prisoners.”
Fights, murders, and robberies were commonplace at the State Line Club, and Louise began carrying a small ball-pean hammer around in her apron to fix the pictures as they were knocked off the walls. Soon she began using the hammer on the heads of her clients as well. As a teenager, Buford Pusser actually witnessed her beat a client to death with that hammer. When the “paid off” sheriff arrived, he was told the man died of a heart attack.
In January 1949 Jack and Louise Hathcock acquired the State Line Club, the Rainbow Room, and Foam City from Nelson Timlake. She was now one step closer to her dreams of being out from under the thumb of domineering men. Her marriage was a sham and everyone, but Jack knew it, but Louise made sure no one could prove her extramarital affairs.
Louise worked hard to keep her affairs a secret until James Everett “Pee Wee” Walker came into the picture. While “Pee Wee” was married to a beautiful woman, the lure of the powerful Louise Hathcock drew him in. On the other hand, Louise found out what it was like to fall entirely in love with someone. Now she was in Jack’s shoes because although Pee Wee talked of leaving his wife for her, he really had no intention of doing so.
The affair carried on for over a year before Nelson Timlake found out about it. This would be the beginning of the end for Jack and Louise. Nelson called in some “boys” to take care of Pee Wee, and meanwhile, Nelson went had had dinner with Jack. While they were there, Jack happily talked about his plans for building a new club, and more importantly, there were plenty of witnesses to provide an alibi.
On June 13, 1957, Nelson’s thugs found Pee Wee and beat him to a bloody pulp before shooting him execution-style. Now no one in his right mind would ever mess with Louise again. This would be the final straw for Louise. Something inside her died along that dirt path with her lover. She quickly divorced Jack Hathcock and over a short period of time acquired part ownership in the Shamrock Motel.
Louise took charge of the infamous motel and at one particular business meeting told her employees how much she hated the “Yankees.” She said the south may have lost the Civil War, but as far as she was concerned if a Yankee walked into the Shamrock they were fair game and she wanted every cent they carried in with them. If her “girls” couldn’t seduce the men into the trailers out back or talk them into gambling away all their money, they would be beaten and robbed before their stay at the hotel ended.
If anyone complained to the police, their bodies would be found at the bottom of the lake. Louise wanted money, and she would do anything for it. As far as she was concerned “Yankees” were subhuman, and they deserved to lose every dime they had. While Louise’s power grew day by day, her mind and emotions began to deteriorate, and soon hard liquor was her constant companion. It had been her crutch since marrying Jack, but now it was all that seemed to keep her going. That, and her hatred for Jack Hathcock. She continually plotted ways to kill her ex-husband, and on May 22, 1964, Louise hatched her evil plan and nothing was going to stop her, not even a beating.
Louise literally had one of her men beat her up then she had someone call Jack to come over. He walked into an ambush, but the bruises on Louise won her a free pass of self-defense. Now Louise was in charge, and no one could stop her.
Murders, extortion, prostitution was commonplace, and soon the law enforcement was waging war on the state line. When Buford Pusser became sheriff, the war escalated drastically. Although he’s credited with cleaning up the state line, there were a lot of law enforcement departments trying to clean up the corruption, but B.P. would be the one to take out the ruthless Louise Hathcock in a blaze of gunfire.
Her life spiraled out of control in the years after Jack’s murder, and she was facing some serious jail time. There weren’t enough of “her people” in law enforcement anymore to buy her way out of it this time. By now her looks had faded, she was broken, and she probably figured it was about over. Maybe that’s why she pulled a gun on a sheriff. Perhaps it was one last act of defiance, or maybe it was suicide by cop. We will never know.
It was a stormy night when a couple of Yankees turned in to the Shamrock Hotel looking for a place to ride out the storm. They were welcomed in warmly, and something slipped into their drinks. Soon they were unconscious in their room when a dark figure moved inside. When they awoke in the morning, all of their money and her purse was missing. The couple hurried to the counter in a panic, hoping to find sympathy and support. Instead, they found a very drunk Louise Hathcock spewing out venom and curses. The terrified couple flew out the door when Hathcock reached into her apron. The police were called from a payphone.
February 1, 1966, Sheriff Buford Pusser, Deputy Pettie Plunk, and Deputy Jim Moffett arrived with warrants in hand to search the Shamrock. This wasn’t the first time they had complaints of robberies there. This would be the last time, though.
When the lawmen walked in, they were greeted with a barrage of cursing that would make a sailor blush. Intoxicated wasn’t a strong enough word for the firestorm that stood behind the counter. They tried to explain they were looking for a missing purse, but Louise started ranting about a car. She wasn’t making any sense. After a few moments, she asks Buford Pusser to have a private chat. He took the search warrants and followed her to apartment one. That’s where she lived. He had no idea what was running through her head as she fingered the cold metal object in the pocket of her sweater.
After isolating the big man, she turned on him with her snub-nosed .38 caliber and fired a shot at the sheriff. He seeing the glint of gunmetal dropped down onto the bed. In her drunken state, she missed his head, and the bullet ended up firing through the window and wedging itself into a post outside. She leveled her gun between the lawman’s eyes and fired again, but it misfired giving Buford time to draw is 41 Magnum and fire back. He didn’t miss, but she kept pulling the gun back up until she took three bullets and landed on the floor. There in the very spot where she plotted the bloodshed of her ex-husband, Louise Hathcock faded into history.
Some conspiracy theorists like to try and say Buford Pusser shot her of his own accord, but I tend to believe she was finished and she knew it. Louise loved being the big boss. She loved the finer things in life. She wouldn’t survive a lengthy prison sentence. To me, a non-local observer, it seems she committed suicide by cop.
A grand jury cleared the sheriff of any wrong-doing, and in a later interview, Pettie Plunk was quoted saying “I’d compare her with Al Capone. I’d just as soon have Al Capone gunning for me as Louise Hathcock.” Maybe that’s the type of legacy she wanted to leave behind. Who knows? What changed this poor girl desperate for money into a ruthless killer? We may never know, and I don’t claim to have the education in psychology to explain it. Whatever the case, Louise Hathcock’s name will be remembered.
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