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Unraveling the Mystery: Dwana Pusser’s Cause of Death

Exploring the causes surrounding the death of the Dwana Pusser; daughter of legendary Sheriff Buford Pusser. 

Dwana Pusser mystery
Illustration by Edward B. Webber

Dwana Pusser’s death is one that is shrouded in mystery. From the potential causes of Dwana’s untimely demise to the peculiar deaths that awaited other family members – we take a deep dive into the tragedies of the Pusser family.

The daughter of renowned and legendary Sheriff Buford Pusser, who served McNairy County, Illinois-born Dwana, was introduced to an earnest, hardworking mindset from birth.

Dwana’s life became heavily influenced by her father’s legacy – both before and after his death – which tragically occurred when she was only sixteen years old.

With her father holding such national prestige for his years serving as a sheriff, Dwana continually – and vehemently – advocated for the profession throughout her life.

Eventually marrying Jamie Garrison and giving birth to two daughters, Dwana went on to work in radio as a broadcaster – a role to which she dedicated fifteen years of her life and helped to shape her own legacy.

Dwana Pusser’s untimely death

Dwana Pusser With A Law Enforcement Officer. Credit: YouTube/ Dennis Boyd

While to this day, there has been very little revealed about the circumstances surrounding her death, on March 7, 2018, Dwana was tragically found dead at the age of 57.

As the news broke of Dwana’s passing, County Sheriff Guy Buck, a successor to her father, announced that “foul play isn’t suspected in Pusser’s death.”

As a remarkably private woman, Dwana’s cause of death remains a mystery. But the news undoubtedly shocked the community that the Pusser family impacted so greatly.

Obituary and Facebook posts show just how beloved Dwana was to those who knew her personally as well as those who learned about her family’s legacy and trials.

Dwana Pusser mystery
Illustration by Edward B. Webber

Tina Mullis, curator of the Sheriff Pusser Home & Museum – a preservation of Dwana’s childhood home that honors her father’s legacy – released a statement honoring the radio broadcaster’s sudden passing.

“Dwana was a kind woman and compassionate, and she was passionate about doing what she could for law enforcement and her father’s legacy,” Mullis said.

Evidently, Dwana had formed a well-respected image in her own right – a reflection of her father’s own endeavors.

Buford Pusser: A determined sheriff

Buford Pusser
Buford Pusser. (Credit: Classic Hollywood Legend/YouTube)

McNairy County is a relatively small town in Tennessee – so how did one of its sheriffs become synonymous with righteous and dedicated law enforcement?

The answer: by embarking on his career as Tennessee’s youngest-ever sheriff to persist through some perilous moments. Namely, Buford’s fervent attempts at combating two of the country’s most notorious gangs: the Dixie Mafia and the State Line Mob.

You could say that Buford had the fearlessness of a lion – surviving a total of three shootings and seven assassination attempts.

These overwhelming career events, along with Buford dealing with – and avenging – the tragic homicide of his wife Pauline, led to the McNairy County Sheriff becoming widely regarded as a national hero.

August 12, 1967, was the most unfortunate of days for the Pusser family. On that day, Pauline was shot dead by suspected mob members who wanted to remove the constant threat to their gang activities: Sheriff Pusser.

As a car whizzed past Buford and Pauline, the shots that were fired to assassinate the former instead fatally wounded the love of his life.

Buford became determined from that moment onwards to use his career to bring about justice for Pauline and convict her killers.

Despite not resulting in a conviction for Pauline’s killers, Buford’s vow to his late wife is what made him successfully crack down on the crime that was ravaging the state at the time. As such, Buford was able to ultimately bring about justice for Pauline.

From local hero to movie icon

Joe Don Baker as Butford Pusser in the 1973 movie, 'Walking Tall'.
Joe Don Baker as Butford Pusser in the 1973 movie, ‘Walking Tall’. (Credit: Paramount Pictures)

Perhaps the most pivotal moment in Buford’s career was following the release of the 1973 action thriller, Walking Tall.

Based entirely on the sheriff’s spectacular career, the movie helped to propel the Tennessee town into the Hollywood limelight.

Reflecting Buford’s immense legacy within Tennessee, the movie depicted the realistically divided opinions that McNairy County felt toward him.

While many hailed Buford as a fearless hero, others felt that his actions veered rather heavily toward needless violence.

In this sense, the movie perfectly stresses the feelings of intrigue, ambiguity and mystery that Buford left on the town.

The movie was a massive success in the United States. Along with making Buford an overnight sensation, the film’s impact is evident through it still being referenced today.

Unfortunately, Buford wasn’t able to witness the scale of his stardom – being killed a year after its release in an unusual car crash.

Mystery deaths within Dwana Pusser’s family

Pauline and Buford Pusser. Credit: WREG-TV

It’s no wonder that Dwana’s death has been the topic of conversation among conspiracy theorists. After all, both Dwana and her parents seemingly died in either mysterious or unconfirmed circumstances.

Even those who are not natural skeptics have found themselves befuddled by the peculiarity behind the family’s demise.

Along with Dwana’s untimely death back in 2018 and Pauline’s unfortunate assassination in 1967, there were also rather suspicious circumstances relating to Buford’s tragic demise.

August 21, 1974, started off as an ecstatic day for Buford. He had just signed a movie deal to star as himself in the upcoming sequel of Walking Tall. Only for him to pass away in a tragic twist mere hours later – by means of a fateful car accident.

Though unconfirmed, the numerous assassination attempts against Buford at the time led many to suspect foul play with the car accident.

It has been fifty years since the legendary sheriff’s death – so we’ll never know for certain whether the vehicle was tampered with by the gangs who sought to remove him from the crime-stopping equation.

As the daughter of two people who died in such a peculiar manner, Dwana Pusser’s death too remains shrouded in mystery to this day. Was there actually more than meets the eye about her tragic passing?

Just last month, Pauline’s body was exhumed and scheduled for an autopsy following a tip. So perhaps the truth is finally about to be unraveled.

Article updated 2nd March 2024.

Written By

I am an MLitt Digital Journalism Masters student at Strathclyde University, and a 2.1 graduate of English Literature (MA Hons) at the University of Edinburgh. Engaging for a decade with journalistic writing and reporting, I have been involved with a broad range of media work; from sports journalism and features, to news writing and disability awareness.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Greg Clark

    February 27, 2024 at 5:58 am

    Dwanas age at Buford’s death was not 16.

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