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TN History for Kids

McNairy County

Buford Pusser
PHOTO: Buford Pusser Museum

McNairy County was famous as the home of a sheriff whose life was glorified in film.

Buford Pusser was the sheriff of McNairy County in the late 1960s. At that time, a lot of people in the county were making whiskey illegally. Pusser took on the moonshiners, as they were known, and raided 42 stills in his first year as sheriff.

His life was chronicled in a 1973 movie called Walking Tall.

Here's another story about McNairy County:

Originally its courthouse was located at a town called Purdy.

This 1855 map shows how the Mobile and Ohio
Railroad missed the town of Purdy

When the Mobile & Ohio Railroad was being planned, railroad officials asked the people of Purdy to invest  $100,000 in the new venture. The people of Purdy refused, and in 1858 the railroad line was built four miles west of Purdy.

After the Civil War a lot of people in McNairy County wanted to move the courthouse to a point near the railroad. The issue was debated for more than 20 years. Finally, in 1891, a courthouse was built at a new town called Selmer, which had been developed by an Alabama businessman named P.H. Thrasher.

The first McNairy County Courthouse built
in Selmer

According to the memoirs of a West Tennessee-born judge named John Pitts, "Mr. Thrasher intended to name the town for Selma, Alabama, but misspelled the name in reporting it to the post office department, and so it has remained to this day, 'Selmer.'"


The current McNairy County Courthouse



McNairy County

County Seat: Selmer

Population (2015 estimate): 26,066