The Last Ride

Murder, Money, and the Sensational Trial That Captivated Nashville

At ten o’clock on the morning of 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 founder and president 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 shocking murder of a much-beloved citizen set off a year of speculation: Where was the mysterious Black man who vanished after entering Haynie’s car as he rode down Elm Hill Pike with his forty-year-old business partner? Thousands of police hours and ten months later, a grand jury handed down an indictment. The murder trial in July 1969 held the city of Nashville spellbound. For the first time ever, Martha Smith Tate pieces together the events and evidence that bring into question the outcome of this notorious case. Haunted by memories of sitting through the heart-stopping trial where Tennessee’s legendary legal giants faced off in a tense courtroom drama, she spent three years carefully studying the 2,400-page transcript and delving into countless news stories. This was Nashville’s most publicized trial ever, and even today—so many decades later— it still fascinates and leaves one wondering whether or not, in the end, justice was served