By Dwight Hunter
I grew up watching Gunsmoke and reveling in the anti-hero Marshal Matt Dillon saving the day. But I wished I had known about real-life Marshal Bass Reeves earlier in life. What a great study his life would have been for a college research paper. Reeves was a black deputy marshal dubbed the "baddest deputy marshal" for Judge Isaac Parker's court in Forth Smith, Arkansas. Reeves jurisdiction was the Oklahoma territory where no law existed except the deputy marshals and Judge Parker.
Many times Reeves would wear disguises or create tricks to get his outlaws. This would lead the author and researcher Art T. Burton to surmise in his book that the TV show character Lone Ranger may have been influenced by the deeds of Bass Reeves.
That book is available online at the Kolwyck Library: Black gun, silver star the life and legend of frontier marshal Bass Reeves. Access the book online.
Burton was a passionate researcher for this topic: he looked everywhere including finding family members, interviews, researching old court records to write this book. His subject Reeves was fascinating American history. Reeves was born a slave, but after settling down as a farmer, he became the first black US marshal west of the Mississippi River. It was his life as a deputy marshal that makes the story so interesting. Reeves was feared by outlaws in the Oklahoma territory. He would invent the best disguises to out trick outlaws. Hence, the suggested Lone Ranger connection.
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