Articles: Black Marshall: The Bass Reeves Story




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Marlena Martin

During the late 19th Century before Oklahoma was recognized as statehood, it was a well-known safe haven for some of the most violent and notorious criminals in United States. In 1875, Judge Isaac C. Parker, was given the task of cleaning up the territory by then US President, ‘Ulysses S. Grant.’ Judge Parker authorized the hiring and deputizing of nearly 200 deputies into the U.S. Marshal program, whose main purpose was restoring law and order and arresting wanted felons and fugitives. Of the 200 deputies hired by Judge Parker's court, one was a former "black" slave from Texas named, "Bass Reeves."

Bass Reeves had the authority and badge to arrest: whites, blacks, Indians or anyone who broke federal law. Bass Reeves expertise with a pistol and rifle was well known and legendary. He stood about six foot two, some say he weighed between 180-191 pounds of pure muscle. As like many former slaves of that era, Bass Reeves was totally illiterate. He would memorize his warrants and other needed info and throughout his entire career, never arrested the wrong person due to his inability to read or write.

Bass Reeves was legendary for catching outlaws in areas that other deputies couldn’t or wouldn’t go to. He was also known for working in disguise (incognito) to get closer to fugitives. He was involved in numerous shootouts but never wounded, he once stated that he killed fourteen men in self-defense. Reeves was interviewed by a Territorial newspaper in 1901, he stated he had arrested over 3000 men and women who had broken federal laws in the Indian (Oklahoma) Territory. Because of his impeccable ability to capture wanted criminals, he was the most feared US Marshal, and also -- a wanted target; he escaped (unharmed) numerous assassination attempts on his life.

Bass Reeves is the only deputy on record who started working for Judge Isaac C. Parker's court in 1875 (pre) and worked up to statehood (post) of Oklahoma in 1907. On one occasion, Reeves son, Bennie murdered his own spouse. Bass took the warrant and bought his son in for murder, shortly thereafter his son was convicted and sent to Leavenworth, KS (where he was later pardoned). At the age of 67, Bass Reeves then returned as a city policeman in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where he served for about two years. Reeves had a downtown beat (assignment), during that time it is reported there was not one crime reported ‘on or during’ his beat. It is reported that Reeves while walking his beat he would have a sidekick who carried a satchel full of pistols.

African-American deputy U.S. Marshals who worked the Indian Territory had the authority to arrest whites, blacks & Indians who broke federal laws. On one occasion Bass Reeves was given the warrant for Belle Starr (a female outlaw in her own right, a member of the legendary Hatfield and McCoy’s, associated with the likes of Jesse James who had her own outrageous exploits & escapades in the wild west), it was the one time she turned herself in to the Fort Smith Court.

Words cannot describe the importance of Bass Reeves. Not only is he man of importance and standard but he’s also a positive role model for the African-American community. Bass Reeves not only crossed the color line… he crossed boundaries. On Jan. 12, 1910, Bass Reeves passed away at the age of 71, in Muskogee, Okla. He may be gone… but his legendary status will live forgotten.

The Movie "Black Marshal: The Hunt for Dozier"

Lee Marlon Newton, a talented and up & coming: filmmaker, screenwriter, actor, director, etc… has passionately taken on the cause of bringing the story of Bass Reeves "The Black Marshall: The Hunt for Dozier" to the silver screen. Newton, a native of Oklahoma graduated from both Langston University and the University of Central Oklahoma. With a limited budget ($7,000) the crew was so moved by the project, they told him not to worry about payment. Newton made a film that the Legendary Bass Reeves would have been honored & proud of. Not only does Lee Newton hold an almost eerie resemblance to Bass Reeves but his handling of guns will leave you in mesmerized.

Newton explains, " I initially was only going to film for a week and just do a 45 minute short on Bass, but everybody I surrounded myself with believed in the story and dedicated everything they had to the project. So, after the first day of filming, my film crew told me not to worry about the money; they believed in the story and they would dedicate more time to the project."

In the end, I had so much help that it was unbelievable. Even though it took me about a year and a half to get everything completely finished; it turned out better than we had all hoped and now it's for sale in Wal-Mart. Thinking back to when I started the project, I knew I would get distribution, because this story was so rare and had never been told, but I had no idea it would be so difficult. Westerns just aren't as popular of a genre as they used to be and all the markets are all about making money. I had lots of stumbling blocks and many people turned me down, but I was determined and now it has worked out.

Lee Newton is currently working on his next project. His new website is currently in the works, look for more up & coming projects from this rising new star.

To purchase a copy of "Bass Reeves: The Hunt For Dozier" you have to purchase the "Black Warriors" Bonus DVD pack. It's the first movie on the 4 movie dvd pack. UPC: 787364303595

Check out Suncoast, BestBuy, Walmart, Barnes & Noble www.barnes& or your local retailer.


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