McNairy County



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.

This 1888 map by Rand McNally shows how the railroad (the dark line) missed Purdy.

Here’s another story about McNairy County:

Originally its courthouse was located at a town called 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 (see article to the right). Finally, in 1891, a courthouse was built at a new town called Selmer.

The first McNairy County Courthouse built in Selmer


According to the memoirs of a West Tennessee-born judge named John Pitts, the developer of the new county seat “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 is on the left.