“If you owned or did business with a bank in a small South Georgia town, and it got robbed or burgled, I probably did it.” So Willie Foster Sellers could say with complete accuracy. A Surrency farm boy, Sellers and his Dixie Mafia cohorts sparked a crime wave in the old Confederacy during the late 1950’s that lasted through the mid-1970’s and netted them an estimated $8 million in ill-gotten loot.
Details of Sellers’ colorful, unlawful life are described in “Dixie Mafia Gangster: the Audacious Criminal Career of Willie Foster Sellers.” The book is now on sale. The author is Dr. Max Courson who, like Sellers, grew up in Appling County. The two collaborated by mail for years because Sellers was an inmate at one of several Texas state prisons. Courson also visited Sellers at the Lubbock (TX) prison facility.
THE FBIs MOST WANTED MUG SHOT OF FOSTER SELLERS TAKEN AROUND 1977. SOURCE - FBI WEBSITE - TEN MOST WANTED HISTORY PICTURES.
Sellers’ first bank burglary occurred in Screven, a small town located a few miles southwest of Jesup. He and another man stole a cutting torch from an auto body shop. Under cover of darkness, they entered the bank by the back door and cut open a portion of the safe. They got several thousand dollars for their effort. Sellers said he and his gang burgled nearly three dozen banks before changing to bank robbery. His crimes enabled him to live extravagantly, to travel widely and to purchase cars, houses and airplanes.
Law officers interrupted his criminal activity on several occasions. However, he escaped twice from an Alabama prison and once from the supposedly impregnable Fulton County Jail. He also aided other prisoners in their escape plans. At one point, he faked his death in order to throw lawmen off his trail.
On another occasion, Sellers was almost caught while visiting his mother on her farm outside Surrency. Sellers fled into the nearby Altamaha River swampland, and hid out there for several days before stealing a car, and meeting relatives in Savannah.
The FBI named Sellers to its Ten Most Wanted List in 1977, but it took the agency more than two years to track him down.
“Dixie Mafia Gangster” was released in February. Copies can be ordered at any bookstore or by contacting the author. Courson’s mailing address is P. O. Box 305, Valrico, Florida 33595. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I appreciate the story about Foster Sellers. Would like to have a copy of that edition.
Riette Hirsch Boxer
03/11/12 at 09:55 AM
I just ordered the book. I am interested in knowing more about Foster Sellers. I remember him in the 50's. What a wasted life!!!!! I grew up in Baxley and remember seeing him at the tennis courts on Fair Street and the drive in movie.
Stacy Mitchell (Sellers)
03/28/12 at 10:27 PM
Hello Mr. Courson. This is Stacy (Foster's daughter) I've been trying to reach you through your website for some time now. Please contact me at email@example.com.
I'm sure it is a interesting story and I would like to read the book. I have never been able to even begin to comprehend how the love of money can push any normal person into trading their freedom for a life in prison in what has to be a horrible and miserable existence. It can't be because they are convinced they will never be caught. I don't know of one that wasn't eventually if they lived long enough.
11/25/13 at 12:02 PM
I just finished the book Dixie Mafia this past week. It was all I could do to put it down and do other things. I read it in just 4 days. I love true stories, history, and my South Ga. home town. I read this and my heart was sadden for the victims of his theft, for his mother, wives, children and for him. At the same time I do not have any condemnation for him and certainly his family should not have any blame or shame. He made his choices and he makes that clear. You don't have to love what a family member does but you should love them and I hope they loved him unconditionally. It was a great book, very well written and I just may have to read it again.
Paula Dean Calviero
09/14/14 at 08:30 AM
I am from Baxley as are my parents. They each knew Foster and always spoke very highly of him, my Mother remembering when Foster's Mother wanted her, as a young woman, to marry Foster, perhaps in hopes of him settling down. He has always been an interesting topic of conversation in my family as they lived fairly close to them outside of Baxley and interacted with them often.
I tried to get my Mother to contact Mr. Courson and relay some of her history with Foster but she declined, however, at almost 80 years of age, she still enjoys talking about him and always with much fondness.
Best wishes to Foster's family.
Jamie Mathis Ottinger
11/13/14 at 01:37 PM
Stacy, I am Ellen Moore Sellers brother Phillip Moore's Granddaughter. I am starting on the Moore side of my family history. I would love it if we can connect up and maybe you can give me some stories and information about the Moore side of your family. Would love to hear from you. Can be reached at JMOHistory@Hotmail.com.
Jamie Mathis Ottinger