Bass Reeves Biography – Bass Reeves transcended from a life of enslavement to become an iconic American lawman. He held the distinction of being one of the pioneering Black deputy U.S. Marshals, particularly as the first to serve west of the Mississippi River, primarily in the Indian Territory.
Born in July 1838, Reeves and his family pursued farming until 1875 when Isaac Parker was appointed the federal judge for the Indian Territory. Parker entrusted James F. Fagan with the role of U.S. marshal and the task of hiring 200 deputy U.S. marshals.
Fagan, having heard about Reeves and his deep knowledge of the Territory, recognized his potential. Reeves, with his ability to converse in various Native languages, was a clear choice. As a result, he became the first Black deputy to serve west of the Mississippi River.
Bass Reeves Cause of Death
Following his retirement, Reeves’ physical well-being experienced a gradual and continued decline. His health became increasingly precarious, marked by a series of medical challenges that ultimately led to his passing.
On the fateful day of January 12, 1910, Bass Reeves succumbed to the ravages of Bright’s disease, more formally known as nephritis, a debilitating condition affecting the kidneys.
Initially, Reeves was appointed as a deputy U.S. marshal for the Western District of Arkansas, which encompassed responsibility for the Native reservation Territory. He continued to serve there until 1893, after which he transferred briefly to the Eastern District of Texas in Paris, Texas. Subsequently, in 1897, he was transferred again and began serving at the Muskogee Federal Court in the Native Territory.
Throughout his extensive 32-year career as a federal peace officer in the Indian Territory, Reeves established himself as one of Judge Parker’s most esteemed deputies. He successfully apprehended some of the most notorious fugitives of his time, showcasing remarkable courage. Despite facing dangerous situations, Reeves remarkably emerged unscathed, even having his hat and belt shot off on separate occasions.
In addition to his sharpshooting skills with both rifle and revolver, Reeves honed superior detective abilities over his long and illustrious career. Upon his retirement in 1907, Reeves could boast thousands of felony arrests on his record, with some accounts suggesting the number exceeded 3,000. Notably, his obituary reported that he had taken the lives of 14 outlaws while defending himself.
One particularly poignant incident was when Reeves had to fulfill his duty by arresting his own son, Benjamin “Bennie” Reeves, who stood accused of murdering his wife. Despite the challenging circumstances, Reeves unwaveringly accepted the responsibility of bringing his son to justice. Accounts of the event vary, with some stating that Bennie was captured by his father, while others suggest he willingly surrendered. Bennie was ultimately tried and convicted, serving 11 years at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas before his sentence was commuted, and he went on to lead a law-abiding life.
Upon the statehood of Oklahoma in 1907, the 68-year-old Reeves transitioned to serving as an officer in the Muskogee Police Department. He faithfully served for two years before health issues led to his retirement.
Reeves himself once faced a murder charge related to the shooting of a posse cook. During his trial before Judge Parker, Reeves maintained that the shooting was an accidental discharge while he was cleaning his firearm. He was represented by former United States Attorney W. H. H. Clayton, who was both a colleague and friend. Ultimately, Reeves’ exceptional track record played a pivotal role in his acquittal, affirming his unwavering commitment to justice.
Bass Reeves Age
At the time of his death, he was 71 years old.
Bass Reeves Family
At the time of his death, he was married to Winnie Sumter. He had 11 children and they were named Newland, Benjamin, George, Lula, Robert, Sally, Edgar, Bass Jr., Harriet, Homer, and Alice.
Bass Reeves Net Worth
At the time of his death, details about his net worth were not known.