Being the sort of history buff that I am, I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce you to the first black Deputy U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi River. Bass Reeves. Mr. Reeves’ story is absolutely astounding. During his long career, he was credited with arresting more than 3,000 felons and bringing them to justice. He is also credited with killing 14 outlaws in self-defense.
Born into slavery in July of 1838, Bass Reeves is better known as the original “Lone Ranger.” There were no sidekicks named, Tonto, and his stellar career must be kept in the annals of time and history. Freed by the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery in 1865, Reeves settled in Arkansas, had 11 children, and farmed near Van Buren.
But law enforcement was his real passion. There are a plethora of things that can be said about the life of Bass Reeves. I’d like to add my voice to the legacy of a man that many have never read about or considered in the Real West.
Marshal Bass Reeves lives in the hearts of every rugged man that will “boldly go where no man has gone before”, and sometimes, alone. The characteristics of courage, grit, honor, fearlessness, and a bold appreciation for what’s right, helped to define this modern day Apostle of Justice.
And if we must have hero’s, why not consider a freedom fighter and lawman who carried a six shooter and towered over his enemies with a profound intelligence and keen marksmanship. Leadership has been defined as: “The ability to influence others to follow through inspiration.” Marshal Reeves encouraged people to follow through the confidence of his good shooting finger.
The real steering wheel inside of Bass Reeves, was his gargantuan heart that beat inside his chest when at rest, 144 times a minute. The human average is 72. Myth.
When Jim Crow laws prohibited Bass Reeves from continuing as a US Marshal, he joined the Muskogee, Oklahoma Police Department and served faithfully there until his passing.
In 2011, the US 62 bridge, which spans the Arkansas River between Muskogee and Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, was named as the Bass Reeves Memorial Bridge. How fitting for a man who’s life bridged the gap between notorious outlaws and the calm backdrop of the wild, wild west. “Bad News for Outlaws,” that Bass Reeves was born. The good news for the pop culture generation, is that he will never be forgotten.
Keep standing on the Rock!
For more information, visit the Bass Reeves Western History Conference July 21st and 22nd, 2017 – The Three Rivers Museum 220 Elgin Avenue, Muskogee, Oklahoma