The elected officials of McNairy County, Tennessee, the setting of the movie, were so embarrassed by the national attention brought to the corrupt county that they refused to allow the movie to be shot there. It was consequently shot in neighboring Chester County. The short-sighted officials didn't realize the amount of money it would bring into McNairy County, one of the poorest counties in Tennessee. However, when the remake, Walking Tall (2004) was announced, the county aggressively "courted" the filmmakers, trying to get the movie made in McNairy County. It was to no avail, as the remake was shot in Vancouver, BC.
Two actresses associated with this film went on to commit suicide: Elizabeth Hartman jumped from the 5th floor of a Pittsburgh apartment building in June 1987; Brenda Benet took her life in April 1982. She had been married to Bill Bixby.
Many residents of McNairy County were upset and turned their back on Sheriff Buford Pusser when the movie was shot in neighboring Chester County, shutting them out of the money being spent by the production. Pusser subsequently lost re-election for Sheriff.
When the sequel to this film was announced, the title was to be "Buford" and the real Buford Pusser was supposed to play himself. However, Pusser's suspicious death before the film began convinced the producers to change the title to "Walking Tall Part 2". Bo Svenson played Pusser.
Opened 6/15/73 in Seattle, Washington, at the 5th Avenue Theatre. Its ad campaign, whose slogan was "When was the last time you stood up and applauded a movie?", was one of the most successful in Hollywood's history.
The character of brothel owner Callie Hacker is loosely based on Louise Hathcock. She was shot and killed by Buford Pusser when she attempted to kill him, but the incident didn't take place in a club. It took place in a motel. Also, the attempt actually took place on February 1, 1966, not on the evening of a Christmas.
The real-life Buford Pusser actually wanted Bo Svenson to play him in this film; however Svenson was unavailable and Baker was cast instead. When Baker turned down the sequels, the producers approached Svenson again, by which time Svenson was now available to play Pusser.