Still Walking Tall: Pusser family works together to put on festival

By Andrew Alexander

Still Walking Tall: Pusser family works together to put on festival

Buford Pusser Festival: Dwana Pusser-Garrison (Center) sits with daughters, and fellow event coordinators, Madison Garrison (Top Left) and Atoyia Barnes (Top Right), and is accompanied by grandsons Jack Houston .and Hayse Barnes. Andrew Alexander

The 23rd Annual Buford Pusser Festival, designed to honor local and national law enforcement while also providing McNairy County with an assortment of entertaining events in the name of legendary Sheriff Buford Pusser begins tonight.

Dwana Pusser-Garrison, daughter of Buford Pusser, has been heading this event for the last 15 years in hopes of improving and entertaining her community while showing a debt of gratitude to law enforcement all over America.

This year Michael Neal, a Wildlife officer and Medal of Valor recipient from West Memphis, Ark., will be recognized as 2011’s National Law Enforcer of the Year by Pusser-Garrison and local law enforcement.

In May of 2010 Neal played an integral role in subduing two white supremacists who had shot and killed two police officers earlier in the day then wounded two deputies who were confronting them in a West Memphis Wal-Mart parking lot. 

Despite the fact that Neal knew the men were armed with semi-automatic weapons and had already killed and wounded several law enforcement officials, he bravely rammed his truck into the side of the suspects’ vehicle, crippling the suspects’ transportation before they opened fire on him.

In a hail of gunfire, Neal retreated in his truck to a safer location in the parking lot, where he joined other police officers before the suspects were killed in a shootout.

“The young man must have had a lot of courage,” Pusser-Garrison said. “They’re human beings like everyone else, and they’re scared to death. Nobody wants to come up on somebody with an AK47.”

Pusser-Garrison will also honor a local law enforcement agent during this year’s festivities, but the name will remain undisclosed until the recognition ceremony Saturday.

Other honorees include former County Mayor Jai Templeton and Adamsville City Manager Terry Thrasher.

Assisting Pusser-Garrison in the efforts necessary in putting on McNairy County’s annual event are a number of community members.

Atoyia Barnes, granddaughter of Buford Pusser, appreciates putting on the festival for McNairy County because it provides her a way to give back to the community her grandfather loved so much.

“I hear stories about how good he was to people,” said Barnes. “I feel honored and privileged to say that he was my granddaddy.”

Others responsible include another of Sheriff Pusser’s granddaughters, Madison Garrison, along with Steve and Sherry Sweat, Paul Wallace Plunk and Sarah White for providing carnival equipment, and Buford Pusser Museum curator Renee Moss.

During the festival, Pusser-Garrison also plans to promote the new Walking Tall Trail that was recently named in honor of Sheriff Bufford Pusser.

The trail is one of 15 that have sprung up around the state in the last few months, and stretches from Savannah to Memphis.

According to the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, Susan Whitaker, in a message posted on Tennessee E-News the trails will go a long way in developing industry and increasing tourism across the state, claiming that tourism is a huge economic engine in this state and has the potential to be an even greater one.

“Tourists come, they stay in local hotels, eat at local restuarants, and spend money in our community, so it benefits our county greatly,” said Pusser-Garrison. “Every city and every county has a story.”



Wednesday: Carnival begins.

Wednesday: SPWA Championship Wrestling begins at 7 p.m.

Thursday: “Music in the Park” begins at 7 p.m. at the pavilion.

Friday: A bus provided by Anchor Trailways and Tours will tour Buford Pusser sites. The tour will be conducted by Dwana Pusser-Garrison with assistance from historian Steve Sweat. The tour will begin at 9 a.m. and will return around 2:30 p.m. The tour costs $50 and includes lunch. Reservations are to be made with Renee Moss at the Buford Pusser Museum at (731) 632-4080.

Friday: Adamsville Idol Contest begins. Entry fee is $20 and the winner receives a $300 cash prize.

Saturday: Car Show begins at 8 a.m. Entry fee is $20. Judging begins at noon. The awards ceremony will begin at 3 p.m.

Saturday: 5K Run. Registration begins at 6:45 a.m. and ends at 8:15 a.m. The race starts at 8:30 a.m. Registration is $20.

Saturday: Parade begins at 10:30  a.m. and will be followed by the opening ceremonies that include Local and National Law Enforcement of the Year Awards at 11 a.m. Storytelling featuring Jack Coffman and Steve Sweat begins at 3 p.m. At The Marty (Adamsville Community Center). Admission is $5.

Saturday: Clay Wagoner Memorial Bluegrass Show begins at 5 p.m. at the pavilion.

Saturday: SPWA Championship Wrestling begins at 7 p.m.


Adamsville Idol Contest registration is open until 6 p.m. Friday. Registration will be open at the pavilion at Buford Pusser Memorial Park, or register by contacting Atoyia Barnes at (731) 646-1475.