Yesterday was the annual Plunk family reunion, which assures each guest of three things: an abundance of good food, music from the talented Plunk clan, and good ol’ stories. I got to hear a re-play of one of my favorites.
The Plunk presence in Tennessee began in 1824 when Jacob Plunk, his wife, seven sons and one daughter traveled from North Carolina to McNairy County, TN. Also in the pilgrimage was Jacob’s brother, John, his wife, five sons and several daughters. Those Plunk sons each had large families and . . . well, you get the picture. That's a lot of Plunks, and that’s why Mike says that all Plunks are related. They can all be traced back to Jacob or John. The reunion Saturday was just for Plunks descended from Mike’s grandfather, David Simpson Plunk, who was the grandson of Jacob’s son, David.
McNairy County is most famous, however, for producing Walking Tall, club-totin’ Sheriff Buford Pusser. The Plunks are twice related to the former sheriff through his mother, Helen Harris Pusser.
The younger Pusser was first police chief of Adamsville, McNairy County, and then elected McNairy County sheriff. The six and a half foot tall Pusser immediately declared a one-man war on the area’s organized crime that ranged from bootlegging and gambling to prostitution. He was relentless and was making a dent in the illegal activities as well as the skulls of some bad guys.
During his campaign against corruption, Pusser survived a bombing of his home and several assassination attempts including an ambush that killed his wife and shot off part of his jaw. In 1974 he died in a mysterious, one-car auto accident. His family and many others believe that his car had been tampered with.
Sheriff Pusser’s story, and fictionalized versions of it, has prompted several books, movies and a brief television series.
Buford was not the first lawman in his family. His father, Carl, had also been the Adamsville police chief.
Roll back to 1937. Newlyweds Hercial (pictured above) and Eloyce Plunk, Mike’s parents, attended a dance in McNairy County, which was Hercial’s home turf although the couple lived in Memphis. During the festivities, Hercial noticed that Carl Pusser was dancing with pretty, young Eloyce, and, in Hercial’s opinion, Carl was holding her a bit too close. Hercial was certainly not a troublemaker, but did strongly hold his opinions. Hercial marched onto the dance floor, separated Carl from Eloyce, and took a swing at Carl that landed solidly. Mike didn’t know until after his father’s death that the crooked pinky finger on his dad’s right hand had been broken on Pusser’s jaw.