History August 09, 2018 at 09:00 am

The story of the black slave turned Deputy Marshal who inspired the popular white fictional character, Lone Ranger

Elizabeth Ofosuah Johnson | Staff Writer

Elizabeth Ofosuah Johnson August 09, 2018 at 09:00 am

August 09, 2018 at 09:00 am | History


Lone Ranger is one of America’s most famous and favourite fictional character who first made an appearance in 1933 on a radio show. The fictional character was brought to life by Amercian comic writer Francis Hamilton who wrote under the name Fran Striker. After the successful radio show, the Lone Ranger went on to feature in a TV show, comics and several award-winning movies.

The fictional character was said to depict the life of real-life American Texas Rangers who investigate dangerous crimes and political cases. The story of Texas Ranger was that of a retired Ranger gunman who fought outlaws in the old American West. His personality was sarcastic, calm and he always wore a black scarf around his eyes. The Lone Ranger was depicted as a white American, and his character is one of the oldest and most iconic figures in American culture.

In recent times, educationist and historian Art T. Benson in his book “Black Gun, Silver Star: Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves (Race and Ethnicity in the American West)”  highlights the life of Bass Reeves as one of the best highest officers in the Wild West era. Bass Reeves’ life is very similar to that of the fictional character Lone Ranger making him the closest and only inspiration to the creator of the character Fan Striker.  The figure was probably made white to gain acceptance and popularity in the U.S. which succeeded.

Bass Reeves was born a slave in July 1838 to William S. Reeves. His birth name was Bass Washington, named after his grandfather, the first slave in his lineage to work under the Reeves family. Bass was given the surname Reeves after being taken to Texas to work for  Colonel George R. Reeves, the son of William Reeves. From George, Bass learned how to use the gun and served alongside George during the American Civil War until one night he escaped from the Reeves household heading north into the Indian Territory. George Reeves will later die of Rabies in 1992.

Upon reaching the Indian Territory, Bass lived with the native Indians picking up their culture and learning their language until he became a free man in 1865 after the Thirteenth Amendment. He moved to his birthplace, Arkansas where he farmed, married and had 11 children.

After ten long years of living as a free man and a prosperous farmer, Reese had to relocate to the Indian Territory after being recruited to help catch criminals disrupting the land. Bass was hired for his outstanding gun skills, commanding look, height and ability to speak the language. He was recruited as the first Black Deputy U.S. Marshall in the west of Mississippi by James F. Fagan.

Bass Reeves sitting at the extreme left in the first row

Bass Reeves worked very well in his position arresting over 3,000 criminals and killing 14 outlaws. He worked in the Indian Territory until 1893 and was transferred to the Eastern District of Texas. In 1987, he was again transferred to the Muskogee Federal Court in the Indian Territory.

He worked as Marshal and Federal Peace Officer for 32 years and rose to become the most valued Deputy Marshall of the Indian Territory.

The legendary Bass Reeves was known for his calm nature, skill and for the fact that he never got wounded during his lifetime as a cowboy as he was popularly referred. One of his most complicated cases was having to arrest his son, Bennie Reeves, for killing his wife. Bennie was found guilty and made to serve his time, a sentence that his father declared as far and by the law.

At the age of 72, on January 12, 1910, Bass died of nephritis.

In his book, Art. T. Benson explains that many of the scenes and stories depicted in the Lone Ranger stories are very similar to the real-life escapades of Bass Reeves. Many of the criminals that Reeves arrested were sent to the Detroit House of Corrections the very place where the Lone Ranger’s story started when he was first introduced in January 1993. The character was also introduced the same month that Bass was born.

A movie on the life of Bass Reeves is long overdue and with all his adventures and interesting escapades, it should be an exciting action movie.


Must Read