The Coweta County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau and the Newnan Carnegie Library are collaborating to present a two-night event featuring the movie “Murder in Coweta County.” This year marks the 70th anniversary of the murder and 35 years since the movie aired.
Dick Atkins, the producer of the CBS made-for-TV movie, will discuss the memories of making the movie in neighboring counties in 1982. The movie was based on the book of the same name written by Margaret Anne Barnes, a local newspaper reporter at the time of the Wallace trial. It aired in February of 1983 and starred Andy Griffith and Johnny Cash.
Events begin Tuesday, July 17 at 6 p.m. with a screening of the movie at the Carnegie Library in downtown Newnan. Atkins and local reporter/historian Winston Skinner will talk about the movie prior to the screening and then field questions and discuss more after it.
The following evening, (Wednesday, July 18 at 6:30 p.m.) a panel discussion is planned in the second floor courtroom in the historic courthouse. Taking part in the discussion with Atkins and moderator, Skinner, will be some relatives of the real people involved in the “murder” events and portrayed in the movie. Among those anticipated to join Atkins on the panel include relatives of the victim, Wilson (aka William) Turner; relatives of Steve Smith (owner of the murder site Sunset Tourist Camp); relatives of Judge Samuel Boykin; relatives of Meriwether Co. Sheriff Hardy Collier as well as a relative of one of the accused, Henry Mobley, among others.
Various memorabilia, including some items once owned by the villain of the movie, Meriwether County resident John Wallace, will be on display at the historic courthouse in Newnan that Wednesday evening.
“Murder in Coweta County” is the story of a land baron in Meriwether County, John Wallace (portrayed by Andy Griffith) who thought he was above the law when he killed a farm hand, Wilson Turner, after Turner had stolen a cow from him. Wallace had the body burned and the ashes thrown in a creek on his property. Problem for Wallace was that he actually killed Turner in neighboring Coweta County which meant Coweta County Sheriff Lamar Potts (Johnny Cash) had jurisdiction over the case. Potts would lead the investigation and he was successful in proving Wallace guilty, who became the first white man in Georgia to be convicted and put to death on the testimony of two black men.
There is no charge for admission for either of the evening events, but reservations are required because of seating limitations.
For the first event at the Carnegie, call the Library at 770-683-1347. For the second event at the Historic Courthouse, call the CVB at 770-254-2627.