Pullen was the son of Justice Thomas Pullen and Margaret Adams Pullen of Virginia. He enlisted in Captain William Davies company of the continental army on January 1, 1777. He served in George Lambert's regulars, 14th battalion, 14th Virginia regiment of foot. That outfit later became the 10th Virginia Regiment under Davies, now a Colonel, and then merged with the 1st Regiment. Pullen fought under Washington's command at Brandywine, Monmouth, Germantown and Guilford C.H., and was encamped at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania in the winter of 1777-78. In his seven years of service, he attained the rank of Lieutenant. He was reputed to have been a personal acquaintance of Washington's and to have visited him after the war at Mount Vernon.
Before 1786, Pullen had moved south to Wilkes County, Georgia, where he married the former Mary Haynes. He had two draws in the 1803 Georgia land lottery, but moved to the Pendleton District of South Carolina before the end of 1811. He participated in the War of 1812. In 1817 a number of families from the Pendleton District removed to settle in central Alabama. Pullen was listed in the 1820 census at his Carolina home, but is reported to have purchased property in what is now Avondale neighborhood of Birmingham from an "Indian Chief" in 1821. On January 7, 1822 he was granted an 80-acre tract, which he farmed until his death in 1845. His heirs sold the property, watered by Pullen Springs, to the City of Birmingham in 1889. It was used as the New Southside Cemetery until 1909, and is now Lane Park, the site of the Birmingham Zoo and Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
Pullen was buried in what was then a family cemetery. By all accounts, he was the first man buried in Jefferson County with full military honors. He was remembered by his relative, P. A. Hickman, in the pages of the August 1845 Alabama Baptist, as "an honest upright man; esteemed and beloved by all who know him, and doubtless a good Christian."
Mary was buried alongside him in 1851. They had 6 children: Clarissa (Hickman), Sarah (Rowan), William, Martha (Hickman), Mary (Rowan) and Elizabeth (Tankersley). Clarissa's son, William Payton Hickman, was a Jefferson County Treasurer for several terms between 1862 and 1888, and a member of the Jefferson County Commission from 1888 to 1892.
Pullen's grave site lay in the path of the development of Avondale after 1887. The once-secluded family plot was soon surrounded by new houses, about 50 yards from the Avondale Streetcar (6th Avenue South) between 34th and 35th Streets. Pullen's grave was marked by a mound of brown stones at the base of an oak tree, capped with a flat tablet inscribed: "William Pullen, A Soldier of the Revolution, who died April 4th, 1845 aged 87 years."
In November 1925 Pullen's remains, and those of his wife, were moved to Forest Hill Cemetery. A new granite headstone was made with a bronze plaque provided by the General Sumter Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. On the testimony of his descendants, his new stone gave his birth year as 1749, but that date conflicts with the original marker and with the 1840 "Census of Pensioners", which gives his age as 82. More than 5,000 people attended the ceremonies at Forest Hill.
- "William Pullin" [sic] obituary (August 2, 1845) The Alabama Baptist. No. 99
- Mell, Annie R. (1904) "Revolutionary Soldiers Buried in Alabama" Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society, Vol. iv, pp. 558-560.
- Owen, Thomas McAdory (1911) Revolutionary Soldiers in Alabama
- Smith, Hester M. & Edward S. (1971) "William Pullen 1757-1845: An Account of His Life in Va, Ga, SC & Ala". manuscript. Baltimore, Maryland: Logical Products, Inc., cited in John David Anderson, Jr (2010) "Lt William PULLEN, Sr." Youngblood Family Genealogy - accessed July 4, 2011
- Causey, Donna (July 27, 2009) "Pullen, William - Revolutionary War Soldier, Jefferson" Alabama Pioneers.