The Last Ride

Murder, Money, and the Sensational Trial That Captivated Nashville

by Martha Smith Tate



Book Details

Language : English
Publication Date : 9/18/2023

Format : Hardcover
Dimensions : 6x9
Page Count : 396
ISBN : 9781665745154

About the Book

TRUE CRIME: Who killed Haynie Gourley? At long last, the answer is revealed in this true story about the society murder that stunned Nashville and held the city spellbound for two years in the late 1960s. At ten o’clock on the morning of Friday, May 24, 1968, Haynie Gourley backed out of the driveway of his elegant home in the wealthy enclave of Nashville’s Belle Meade. Driving across town, he pulled into the sparkling new headquarters of Capitol Chevrolet on the outskirts of the city. An hour later, the seventy-two-year-old, self-made founder of one of the South’s largest automobile dealerships was dead of three gunshot wounds, one just below the left ear, a second to the neck, and a third to the chest. The only witness to the crime was 40-year-old Bill Powell, vice-president of Capitol Chevrolet and a former college football star who was at the wheel of Haynie’s car as the two men set off–at Powell’s request– on a ride to discuss business. The brutal murder of a much-beloved citizen and family man set off a year of speculation: Where was the mysterious Black man who vanished after jumping into the back seat of Haynie’s car, demanding money of the two men, then shooting wildly, killing Haynie and wounding Powell in the left calf. The timing of the death was suspicious. Only two nights before, Powell vowed to resign if Haynie made his 23-year-old son an officer in the company. Haynie had dreamed of leaving the dealership to his namesake to keep his life’s work in the family and immediately took steps to make this happen. But before a new contract could be approved by the Chevrolet Motor Company in Detroit, Haynie was murdered, and the highly successful business he had built up over 35 years, passed not to his son, but to Powell, who had been at the dealership for only three years. Cracks soon began to appear in Powell’s account of what happened. An autopsy revealed there had been no wild shooting, that a gun had been held to Haynie’s head and neck and fired, execution-style. Ten months after the murder an indictment was handed down, followed by a sensational trial where two legendary legal giants, both veterans of the Hoffa trials, were pitted against each other. The city was mesmerized. Author Martha Smith Tate, who sat through the tense courtroom drama during the blazingly hot days of July and August 1969, remained haunted by the outcome for decades. She spent three years carefully studying the 2,400-page transcript and delving into countless news stories and conducting interviews with survivors who participated in the case. The resulting book is full of twists and turns, of shady characters who surface, then disappear, and of eyewitnesses destroyed on the stand by cunning attorneys. The narrative culminates in a shocking ending, leaving the reader to decide whether justice was served in this notorious case, which, to this day, remains officially unsolved.

About the Author

Martha Smith Tate grew up in Palmetto, Georgia, and graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1967 where she majored in history and attended Vanderbilt-in-France in Aix-en-Provence the spring of her junior year. For twenty-two years, she was a columnist and feature writer for the Atlanta Journal & Constitution and was cocreator and co-producer for the HGTV series A Gardener’s Diary, turning out 240 episodes over eleven years. She is the author of the 2014 book Margaret Moseley’s A Garden to Remember. Martha lives in Atlanta, Georgia.