McNairy County historian Billy Wagoner had sold out the first copies of his book in 10 years by 3 p.m. at the Buford Pusser Museum on Saturday.
“We sold about 100 in three hours,” he said. “I was really surprised at the way it sold.”
“Buford Pusser ... the Blood and Thunder Years” was first published in 1988. The last printing was 10 years ago before author Robert Broughton brought the book back to life.
“(Wagoner) did an excellent job with it and it needed to be brought back into print,” Broughton said. “We added a little more to it so people would have more to look at.”
Wagoner wrote the book to help with the museum opening.
“I just knew a lot about Buford and found the subject to be fascinating,” he said. “The ambush that took Pauline’s life, the killing of Louise Hathcock and Russ Hamilton.”
Corinth native Cody Whitehead visited the museum during the book signing, which was part of the Buford Pusser Festival on Saturday.
“I’ve known (Wagoner) a long time,” he said. “He’s a great friend and this is another part of the story.”
The Stantonville native attended Adamsville High School with Pusser.
“I knew him,” he said. “I followed his career all the way through the years he spent in Chicago, and saw him return home in 1960.
“I didn’t run with him because I thought he was an individual who lived on the edge.”
The son of O.F. and Clara Sanders Wagoner grew up in a log cabin in the small McNairy County town. “I still own it,” he said. “It’s still furnished.”
He played baseball at Adamsville High School and for 10 years with the Tennessee Valley Association for the Milledgeville Redbirds. The Memphis Chicks, a long time professional baseball presence in the Mid-South sought out Wagoner in 1953.
“They couldn’t sign me then,” he said. “They had to wait to until my graduation year (1955).”
But by then, the team had been bought by the Nuren Packing Company.
Wagoner began working for the Appeal Publishing Company in 1953.
“I was hired as a printer as a result of my work with the school paper, “he said. “That’s when I met Buford. I first met Buford in 1953.”
The Appeal Publishing Company folded in 1968, the same year Wagoner married Bobbye Mitchell of Bethel Springs. The couple began publishing the Adamsville Community News that same year. They ran the publication for 40 years, ending in 2007.
The couple had one son, Clay, who passed away from a heart attack in 2005.
Wagoner also covered the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1970s and once served as a bullpen catcher for Hall of Famer Satchel Paige prior to an Old-Timer’s game.
“I got a press pass by calling them,” he said. “I could go any time. I could go in the dugouts and batting cages. They were very receptive to the press.”
While Wagoner talked with Cardinals great Stan Musial, Paige said “I need to warm up (for an old timers game).”
Wagoner, a longtime catcher, caught 12 pitches from the legend
“I swear he threw one outside, one inside, he could throw it half way in the strike zone,” Wagoner said. “I don’t think there was a pitcher as good as him.”
Wagoner, an avid collector of historical artifacts, first learned history from Stantonville Elementry School principal Ted Smith. Wagoner has served as McNairy County historian since 1982. Court Clerk Ronny Price recommended him for the position.
He was inducted into the McNairy County Music Hall of Fame in 2017 for his talents as a banjo player, guitarist, vocalist and for his contribution to the music history of McNairy County.