MURDER IN COWETA COUNTY
As James and Bruce head out of Alabama, thoughts turn to Johnny Cash's film career, because he'd always wanted to be an actor. I'm not sure he was the most natural of actors, but the trail takes us through the real-life setting of Johnny's 1983 TV movie, Murder In Coweta County.
The movie shows its age, but there is no doubt that the story is a good one, because it's a true one.
Johnny played Sheriff Lamar Potts, a tough law enforcer from Coweta County in Georgia in 1948. John Wallace was a wealthy landowner and thug and bully from adjoining Meriwether County, who dismissed one of his employees, Wilson Turner, for doing extra bootleging work on the side. Turner retaliated by stealing two of his cows.
In Meriwether County, you did not go against John Wallace.
Turner was arrested and placed into the Meriwether County Jail, by the courthouse square in Greenville. Turner's truck was drained of fuel, and Wallace's friends were waiting in the square. With the connivance of the local sheriff, Turner was released for lack of evidence. On seeing the mob, Turner fled in his truck, and was able to head north, until his truck ran out of fuel at the Sunset Tourist Camp in Moreland, where Wallace beat him with his pistol, which went off and killed Turner.
Turner's body was taken away and burned.
The problem for John Wallace was that Turner had crossed into Coweta County, where Sheriff Potts was in charge, and he wasn't going to be bullied by wealthy thugs from an adjoining county.
Wallace was tried and convicted, and what is important about the case is that Wallace is one of the wealthiest men to be executed, but moreover he was the first white man sent to the electric chair based upon the evidence of two black people, those being his two farmhands who helped Sheriff Potts discover the remains
The Meriwether County Courthouse in Greenville, GA, where John Wallace wanted to be tried, because he knew he'd be acquitted
Witnesses in these businesses said that they'd seen Wallace's men waiting, the County Jail being in a right-turn just after the church
The view from the church towards the men waiting to murder Wilson Turner
On looking left, towards the courthouse, he saw the waiting mob, so turned right to head north, the mob in pursuit
Wilson Turner made it this far, to the Sunset Tourist Camp at Moreland
Wilson Turner was killed here, pistol-whipped, the gun discharged, and taken away to Meriwether County for his body to be burnt and hidden
On the day of Turner's release, John Wallace's men were waiting in these streets for him
The owner of the Court Square Cafe gave evidence about Wallace's men lying in wait
The Meriwether County Jail, as it was then, from where Wilson Turner was released into the waiting mob
But it wasn't long before Turner crossed the county line, into Coweta County, and the jurisdiction of Sheriff Lamar Potts
He pulled in, his car out of fuel, and was attacked in full view of people in the camp
But as the murder took place in Coweta County, rather than Meriwether County, the trial took place here, in Newnan, and John Wallace went to the electric chair