The first edition
In 1948, a wealthy, influential landowner of Meriwether County pistol-whipped a young sharecropper outside of the Sunset Tourist camp in Moreland with such force the gun discharged. John Wallace’s execution by electric chair would be the first time in Georgia that a white man was given the death sentence on the testimony of two men of color, Albert Brooks and Robert Lee Gates. Wallace’s murder of Wilson Turner, a crime which involved three counties, would rock not only the state but the entire country, making legal history in Georgia and inspiring an acclaimed book and celebrated made-for-television movie, both titled Murder in Coweta County.
Photograph by Susan Orpin of Andy Griffith as John Wallace
Murder in Coweta County, the film, is dusty with Georgia red clay and stars Andy Griffith as John Wallace and Johnny Cash as Lamar Potts, the Sheriff of Coweta County who brought Wallace to justice. The two men are true foils, Griffith an unrelentingly vicious and irredeemable Wallace and Cash a gloriously heroic Potts. Both men, however, must consult “Oracle of the Ages,” resident fortune-teller, and local numbers runner Mayhayley Lancaster, portrayed in the film by the incomparable June Carter Cash, who aids in the prosecution, testifying against Wallace.
June Carter Cash as the incredible Mayhayley Lancaster, photograph by Susan Orpin
Amanda Mayhayley Lancaster is a legend around these parts, in turns beloved and feared. Our own Miranda McMillan recalls driving with her mother thrice around Mayhayley’s grave to see if the legend was true and the engine would suddenly quit. It seems everybody’s grandmother or grandfather has some story about Mayhayley Lancaster, many of which are recounted in Dot Moore’s wonderful biography Oracle of the Ages: Reflections on the Curious Life of Fortune Teller Mayhayley Lancaster. Carrollton-based band Mayhayley’s Grave pays homage to the legendary woman in its name, and if you see lead vocalist James Davis on Adamson Square, he can regale you with all the tales, tall and otherwise, surrounding this bigger than life figure. To add to the portrait of this complex, honestly fantastical woman, Mayhayley was also a lawyer, a political activist, and the first woman to run for Georgia legislature (on the very practical platform of extending roads and railroads to rural communities). To say the least, Miss Mayhayley, as many call her, is a significant figure in our local history.
A first edition and advance review copy of the award-winning book
Recently, a wonderful collection of material concerning the 1976 book and the 1983 film came into our possession: a first edition of Margaret Anne Barnes’ Murder in Coweta County, signed and inscribed by the author, the director of the film, many cast members, including Johnny Cash, Andy Griffith, and June Carter Cash, and even by Sergeant J. C. Otwell, who uncovered incriminating evidence for the 1948 case (and who is an important figure in Dot Moore’s “Oracle of the Ages”), along with an advance review copy of the book, a February 1983 edition of Atlanta magazine featuring an article on the making of the film, and nine 8 X 10 photographs of the cast (two shown above) by one of the film’s photographers, to whom the book is inscribed.
Front endpapers truly filled with inscriptions from the cast of the 1983 film
Click here to see the full listing on our website for this incredible piece of West Georgiana.