In February of 1983, Dick Atkins and Gary Nelson released a movie starring Andy Griffith and Johnny Cash.
“Murder in Coweta County” was a movie reversing rolls for the famous Andy Griffith. Instead of playing the good sheriff, he was John Wallace, a wealthy landowner turned murderer. Johnny Cash played the neighboring county Sheriff Lamar Potts, who was finally able to convict Wallace of his crimes.
And while the two stars — Griffith and Cash — are gone, the men who brought the story to life, Nelson as director and Atkins as producer, will be in Mount Airy this weekend for a talk before the film is shown.
The original plot summary of the story describes the relationship between the two characters as the man who ran the kingdom and the man who brought him down.
The story began in April 1948 when a real-life murder was committed in Coweta County, Georgia.
Landowner John Wallace had virtually unlimited power in the county including having local Sheriff Hardy Collier under his control.
Animosity between Wallace and a local farmer over a bootleg operation gone wrong led to the murder of a farmer and the conviction of an essentially untouchable man.
The movie originally aired on the CBS network and remained as a TV-only film until 2013 when the official DVD was released.
The original idea was brought to both Nelson, the director, and Atkins, the producer, from a co-worker who had read the book. “Immediately we were both fascinated with the story line,” said Atkins.
“We spoke to Cash who had already been involved with the story, from reading the book and the idea of producing the movie…he was immediately willing to take part in the film.”
Griffith was as well.
Atkins said that he can remember Griffith saying “I’m drawn to the opportunity to be in a film where I play the bad guy, co-starring to Johnny Cash and I can play the banjo.”
Atkins and Nelson will be in Mount Airy on Sunday. The two will be at Mayberry on Main starting from 12 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. for autographs and pictures. Then they will move to the Historic Earle Theatre starting at 3 p.m. to answer any questions and give background on the movie.
The movie will be shown at the Earle at 4 p.m. following the question and answer session.
“I find that a lot of folks are fascinated by the fact the movie is based on a true story,” said Atkins
In addition to Griffith and Cash, their spouses, Cindy Griffith and June Carter Cash, had roles in the movie.
Reach Eva Queen at (336)415-4739 or [email protected]