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

Meriwether County Courthouse, Greenville

The Meriwether County Courthouse in Greenville, GA, where John Wallace wanted to be tried, because he knew he'd be acquitted

Courthouse Square Greenville

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

Greenville Georgia

The view from the church towards the men waiting to murder Wilson Turner

Towards the courthouse in Greenville

On looking left, towards the courthouse, he saw the waiting mob, so turned right to head north, the mob in pursuit

Sunset Tourist Camp Moreland

Wilson Turner made it this far, to the Sunset Tourist Camp at Moreland

Where Wilson Turner was murdered

Wilson Turner was killed here, pistol-whipped, the gun discharged, and taken away to Meriwether County for his body to be burnt and hidden

Greenville Georgia

On the day of Turner's release, John Wallace's men were waiting in these streets for him

Court Square Cafe Greenville

The owner of the Court Square Cafe gave evidence about Wallace's men lying in wait

Meriwether County Jail in 1948

The Meriwether County Jail, as it was then, from where Wilson Turner was released into the waiting mob

Coweta County Line

But it wasn't long before Turner crossed the county line, into Coweta County, and the jurisdiction of Sheriff Lamar Potts

Sunset Tourist Camp

He pulled in, his car out of fuel, and was attacked in full view of people in the camp

Courthouse in Newnan, Coweta County

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