At 6 foot 2 inches tall and 190 pounds, sitting atop a large stallion wearing a large black hat, clean suit, gleaming boots and two Colt pistols on his hips, Bass Reeves was an impressive figure as the first black U.S. deputy marshal west of the Mississippi River.
Known as one of the greatest frontier heroes in U.S. history, Reeves made more than 3,000 arrests and only killed 14 people in the line of duty. He was a model law enforcement officer who was well-regarded throughout his career.
Born to slave parents in 1838 in Paris, Texas, Reeves started a water boy until he was old enough to be a field hand. As he grew older, he became the personal servant of George Reeves, his master, whom he served with in Civil War. Both parted company soon after and Bass Reeves fled to the territories of the Creek and Seminole Indians. There, he would hone his firearm skills and learn several tribal languages.
In 1863, Reeves left the Indian Territory and purchased land near Van Buren, Ark., and became a farmer. A year later, he married and began to have a family.
Reeves’ life as a farmer was about to change, however, when Isaac C. Parker was appointed judge for the Federal Western District Court at Fort Smith, Ark., on May 10, 1875. Parker soon appointed U.S. Marshal James F. Fagan to deal with the lawless that had arisen in the Indian Territory. Fagan learned of Reeves’ expert knowledge of the area, as well as his ability to speak tribal languages, and soon recruited him as a deputy.
During his service, Bass gained fame and respect for his polite demeanor, tracking skills and arrests, including one of noted outlaw Bob Dozier. Dozier eluded Reeves for several years until the he tracked him down in the Cherokee Hills. After refusing to surrender, Reeves killed Dozier in a gunfight on Dec. 20, 1878.
Reeves served as marshal until 1893. When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, Reeves, then 68, became an officer of the Muskogee, Okla., police department. He served for two years before he became ill and had to retire.
The great lawman later died in 1910.
Source: www.legendsofamerica.com/we-bassreeves.html; Wikipedia.