Dixie Mafia Bloodbath: The Revenge of Buford Pusser

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

They killed his wife and took his face. Now he was out for blood. Someone would have to pay for the death of Pauline Pusser. Hollywood loves the tale of a vigilante seeking justice, but the facts don’t line up with “Walking Tall.”


After the ambush on New Hope Road on August 12, 1967, Sheriff Buford Pusser supposedly named four suspects in the death of his wife, Pauline. When asked again while being wheeled out of surgery, he wearily replied that he didn’t know who shot them. Carl Douglas “Towhead” White was apparently the man who ordered the hit from prison and his friend Kirksey Nix, Jr. was the one to carry out the hit. The names Carmine Raymond Gagliardi, Gary Elbert McDaniel, and George Albert McGann were also mentioned.

Legend says the officer went rogue and got revenge on everyone who killed his wife except for Kirksey Nix.

Hollywood loves to spin tails, and this one is no exception. Keep this in mind if you watch the various versions of “Walking Tall.” There is so much fiction woven into the stories that minimal facts remain. Buford Pusser was a sheriff, and Pauline his wife was killed. All of this happened along the state border of Tennessee and Mississippi. The other characters like Towhead White, Louise Hathcock, and Kirksey Nix, were real outlaws, but other than that, not much else is true.

Let’s Investigate!

According to the book Mississippi Mud: Southern Justice and the Dixie Mafia” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Mississippi Mud, the first three ambush suspects all died mysteriously, and they say Nix voluntarily went to prison to avoid Pusser. We will see. First up is Carmine R. Gagliardi. They say his body was found riddled with bullets floating in the Boston Harbor in 1969. I dove into this case, thinking I should be able to find at least one newspaper article on this guy in the harbor. There were none. Absolutely zero. I did find a guy that fit the description of a mafia hitman named CARMEN R. Gagliardi, but he was not found floating in the harbor.

Carmen Gagliardi was in prison for killing Joe Lanza, a local bartender. It is said Gagliardi could be tied to up to fifty different mafia hits in and around Boston. At one time he was on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted List, but there’s no evidence he was ever on the state border between Tennessee and Mississippi. In January 1975, Gagliardi died in prison of a drug overdose. Nowhere does it say anything about a Gagliardi male being found in the Boston Harbor.

Mr. Gags may have put bodies in the harbor, but it appears this is just another tall tale.

There is a chance that it’s two different guys, but I tend to doubt it. Either way, I find it hard to believe that Sheriff Pusser went 2,400 miles to kill a mob hitman and no one noticed him missing. The big man was too busy raising Cain at the state line to take a road trip, in my opinion.

Gary Elbert McDaniel was found floating in the Sabine River in Texas on February 8, 1969. Some detractors claim the vindictive lawman killed him, I beg to differ. What they fail to mention is the fact that McDaniel was neck-deep in trouble after trying to kill a Mississippi prosecutor. Some of his Dixie Mafia buddies were afraid he was turning state’s evidence. This is most likely the cause of his death, and again other than being loosely tied to the Dixie Mafia and Kirksey Nix there’s no definitive link to Buford Pusser.

Legend tells the tale of how Buford Pusser wrought with grief killed all of his attackers, but again, this one leaves more questions than answers.

The next man on the list was George Albert McGann. He was supposedly shot by Buford Pusser in Lubbock, Texas. McGann was a big-time gambler. He was killed during a poker game on September 30, 1970. Somehow his death was tied to the legend of Buford Pusser anyways.

Now Towhead White is an entirely different story. White and the sheriff were mortal enemies. The entire state line shook with the rumblings of their warfare. Around midnight on April 2, 1969, Towhead pulled up in front of the El-Ray motel. The girl in the front seat with him was the estranged wife of the motel’s owner. Berry Smith, known as Junior, watched them pull into the driveway and stepped outside to meet them.

A verbal altercation ensued followed by gunfire. When the sun rose on April 3, 1969, Carl Douglas “Towhead” White was gone. Shirley Smith had somehow slipped from the passenger side of the car without injury, but White was shot in the forehead. Some say his gun was still in his right hand when the police pulled his body from the car.

Junior was arrested for murder, but the charges were later dropped, and the death ruled as self-defense. According to the bullet’s trajectory, it seemed as if Towhead was actually shot by someone on the roof of the motel. Rumors immediately named the sheriff, but no evidence was ever found. No one put much effort into the investigation. The locals were documented, saying, “Good Riddance.” We may never know who killed Towhead White.

An entirely different story:

Fifty years after the story began, an anonymous witness has come forward claiming to know who was involved in the ambush on New Hope Rd. and it’s not who you think.

Kirksey Nix is believed to have gathered a crew from his friends in Gulfport, Mississippi. The local police department was corrupt at the time and one small time deputy was named Dan Anderson. Several of the Dixie Mafia members played cards at his kitchen table, and it’s believed that his crew came from this core group. Allegedly, this is where they found the dark-colored Cadillac as well.

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Photo courtesy of the family – Towhead White on the right, Dan Anderson in the front

When the men asked the impressionable young Ronnie Anderson if he wanted to ride along for a night on the town, he had no idea what was about to go down. He was just glad to be invited. His father, Dan, had gotten in over his head with this group, and now it would cost him dearly. His precious boy would return home, but six weeks later, he would be silenced forever.

The last man on Buford’s list was Kirksey Nix, Jr. Legend says he voluntarily went to prison to avoid the sheriff. Actually, Nix was convicted of murdering Frank Corso in 1972. There is no evidence he voluntarily jumped ship to avoid Buford Pusser.

So who was killed to avenge the blood of Pauline Pusser?

Well…

Maybe Towhead White…maybe not. But Hollywood rarely cares about the facts.


All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is Innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own the copyright on photos. Pictures are displayed under the fair use act. All photos are for informational purposes only. ©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


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Further Reading:

Memphis Flyer

Giants of Tennessee

Learning History

View From A Hearse

TN Valley Talks

Buford Pusser Museum

Recommended Books on the Dixie Mafia:

Crime Buff’s Guide to Outlaw Texas by Ron Franscell

1960’s Austin Gangsters: Organized Crime that Rocked the Capital By JEsse Sublett

Mississippi Mud by Edward Humes


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Mobster Monday – Ambushed

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Photo courtesy of The Tennessean
Nashville, Tennessee
07 Sep 1969, Sun  •  Page 195

The sheriff was a controversial character from the moment he pinned the badge to his shirt. Some people loved him and thought he was a hero and others demonized him. Whatever your view of the legendary man, the following story is fact.

1967:
The Dixie Mafia was known as the State Line Mob and was led by Carl Douglas “Towhead” White. White was in prison when his lover, Louise Hathcock pulled a gun on Sheriff Pusser and was killed. A grand jury would find the sheriff had acted in self defense and no charges were filed. Upon hearing the news, White called his friend Kirksey Nix, Jr and ordered the hit on Sheriff Pusser and his wife, Pauline, or so we’re told. I will leave the speculation up to you.

August 12, 1967:

Sherriff Pusser received a drunk & disorderly disturbance call at his home in the wee hours before dawn. Pauline Pusser decided to ride along with her husband as she had done on many occasions. This time that decision would be fatal. The pair drove out to New Hope Road to check it out. In reality, the disturbance was a ruse to ambush the young sheriff and his wife.
Pusser passed the New Hope Methodist church looking for the reported disturbance but continued driving when he found the place quiet. A dark colored Cadillac pulled out from behind the church and followed the sheriff with its lights off. As the two cars reached a narrow bridge, the Cadillac flashed on its headlights and came racing up beside the officer’s car. (Some accounts claim there were two cars following the sheriff.)
The Cadillac’s passenger opened fire hitting Pauline in the head. The sheriff ducked and stepped on the gas. The engine roared to life, and the car lurched ahead of the assassins. He sped up the road a couple of miles until he was sure he had lost his tail, and then pulled over to check on Pauline. Moments later the assassins again found their mark and gunshots rang out hitting Sherriff Pusser in the face and jaw blowing it apart. Somehow the sheriff would survive the attack, but Pauline was killed.
At first, Pusser declared he knew precisely who was responsible and named Towhead White, George McGann, Gary McDaniel, and Kirksey Nix. A few others were involved in the ambush but the proof wouldn’t come out for decades. After 18 days in the hospital and a dozen surgeries to repair his face, Pusser declared he couldn’t tell who had shot him. Perhaps he had a temporary bout of amnesia, or perhaps the sheriff was planning to go rogue. Pauline Pusser was laid to rest while the sheriff was in the hospital. Some of his critics claim that he refused to attend the funeral, but I haven’t seen any official documentation to prove it.

Rumor Mill Alert:

Some claim that Pusser had girlfriends on the side and Pauline was about to divorce him. Again, I have no official proof of that. The man’s main critic claims that he talked to a bunch of the locals who told him this story. So, it must be true, right? Wrong! What kind of…never mind. Of course if you talk to all the locals they are going to repeat the rumor mill. Many locals had family members that were bootleggers, so their view of the authorities was automatically negative. I reached out to the man, but he wouldn’t respond to my interview request.

Did Sheriff Pusser blow off his own face to avoid getting a divorce?

I would never claim the sheriff was a saint, but to claim that he staged the ambush so he could kill his wife is a bit ludicrous. If this was the case, he would have taken a high powered rifle, put it in his non-dominant hand, and shot himself in the face. I don’t know very many people willing to blow their own face off to avoid getting a divorce.

A more reasonable explanation:

Although I am not about to dispute Sheriff Pusser’s marriage troubles, I am a little skeptical when it comes to a man blowing off half of his face. Here’s a theory that makes more sense. Whatever the state of his home life, Buford Pusser had just killed the girlfriend of a very prominent member of the Dixie Mafia. Towhead White was furious and ordered a hit. Now here’s another rumor that might ring true if you think about it.

Some people say that the target was actually Pauline. I cannot explain it in this post, but I will tell you about it in the next one.

The Bloodbath:

Time would witness the deaths of three of the conspirators, but Kirksey Nix would remain on the loose. Allegedly, there were three others involved in the ambush and the purpose was to kill Buford Pusser’s wife. Those conspirators planned to send the sheriff off on a wild goose chase, then return to the house. The plan was to lure Pauline out with a innocent crippled boy. The other men would kill her in revenge of Louis Hathcock.

The best laid plans go awry and they see Pauline in the car with Buford as they pass by. This would lead to the ambush on New Hope Rd. The crippled boy was along for the ride of his life whether he wanted to go or not. This night would lead to much blood shed and the death of a boy. While the newspapers would go on to hail Sheriff Pusser as a hero and Hollywood would make movies about him, the death of the boy gets lost in the shuffle.

Next week we will dive into the aftermath of the ambush and lay out the cover ups that would condemn the death of Ronnie Anderson to the cold case file.


The following links are for the benefit of Synova’s readers and are not an all-inclusive source listing.

Further Reading:

Jackson Sun 

Youtube Video of Ambush Site

Dixie Mafia Book Recommendation:

The State Line Mob: A True Story of Murder and Intrigue


All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is Innocent until PROVEN guilty. ©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice e-book free.

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State Line Mob: Predecessor of the Dixie Mafia

The State Line Mob

Long before the phrase “Dixie Mafia” was coined by law enforcement officials, there was the State Line Mob. Like it’s successors, the S.L.M. were a barely organized band of criminals that would do anything and everything to make money. They ran their criminal enterprises along the Mississippi and Tennessee border; hence the name. This deadly group would spawn a cast of characters like Jack & Louise Hathcock, Carl Douglas “Towhead” White, and even launch the legend of Sheriff Buford Pusser.


While Hollywood would catch wind of the infamous sheriff and create a series of “Walking Tall” films, they were highly exaterated. The truth of the State Line Mob and the man who waged war against them was insane enough without extra dramatization. Over the course of the next few weeks I will dive into this tale. Corinth, Mississippi got a reputation in the 1940’s as a hideout for some Chicago Outfit members, and that continued for several decades.

This story weaves back and forth throughout the history of the south, but I will start our tale with one infamous hotel: The Shamrock Hotel & Grill.

Shamrock Motel This photo courtesy of the The Tennessean  · 12 Aug 1973, Sun · Page 164

This rough and tumble establishment straddled the Mississippi/Tennessee state line and was owned by Jack and Louise Hathcock. While Jack was ruthless in his own right, his wife was the southern, hammer toting spitfire. Every vice known to man could be found at this little Dixie getaway. Murders and muggings were commonplace on the grounds of the Shamrock. Eventually, both owners would be killed there, but that’s a story for another day.

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Photo courtesy of Find A Grave

While much of the story of the State Line Mob is urban legend and can’t be officially documented, the crimes at Shamrock were well documented in police reports. It was said that visitors would be lured in by a cheap breakfast and then robbed of their valuables. If anyone complained to the police, they would wind up at the bottom of the river wrapped with logging chains.

Here’s one legend that I cannot debunk or verify, so I will let you decide:

At the age of 17, Buford Pusser witnessed Louise Hathcock literally beat a sailor to death with a ball-peen hammer. When the dirty cops arrived, they immediately took Hathcock’s suggestion that the man died of a heart attack. Supposedly this is why Pusser would later become a sheriff that refused to take bribes. Who knows? I’ll let you decide on that one, but I’ll be diving into the legendary lawman more next week.

Another character in this tale is Carl Douglas “Towhead” White. He was a southern outlaw with a goal. He wanted to become more infamous than Al Capone. Although he was a thief, assassin he never quite attained the reputation of his idol. Towhead was later rumored to be a lieutenant in the Dixie Mafia.

Louise Hathcock preferred Towhead over her husband Jack, and together they conspired to kill him. On May 22, 1964, Louise Hathcock killed her husband on the grounds of the infamous hotel. Of course, the story of self-defense was accepted, and no one was ever charged with the murder of Jack Hathcock.

Next week I will get into the war that raged between the State Line Mob and Buford Pusser. Don’t forget to check out my Mobster Monday posts each week along with my cold cases on Fridays.


The following links are for the benefit of Synova’s readers and are not an all inclusive source listing.

Further Reading:

The Jackson Sun


All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is Innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own any photos used in this post. No copy right infringment intended. Photos used under the fair use act for informational purposes only. ©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

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SIGN UP HERE


Each week Synova highlights obscure cold cases on her blog as a victim’s advocate with the Missouri Missing organization. She never charges for her services. If you’d like to help support Synova in this worthy cause, please check out the affiliate links below and on the sidebar of this page. By purchasing one of her books or using these links, you will be supporting Synova’s work on cold cases and will ensure her ability to continue to give a voice to the victim’s family. Thank you.


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