U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves, a true Hero of the Badge™, was chosen as the subject for this first coin in our American Heroes series due to his exemplary character and heroic life. Heroic not only because of his exploits in maintaining order on the Western Frontier, but heroic in his ability to overcome the adversity of racial disharmony and succeed in his chosen profession.
Bass Reeves left a legacy of a life of sacrificial service. He was a law enforcement officer who truly made a positive difference in the lives of all those he swore to protect and serve.
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Bass Reeves, A Life Well Lived
Bass Reeves was born into slavery in the late 1830’s. He escaped to Indian Territory sometime during the Civil War. It was there, living as a fugitive among the Native American peoples, that he developed many of the skills that would contribute to his professional accomplishments.
After emancipation Reeves migrated to Van Buren, Arkansas where he acquired acreage, married, raised a family, farmed, and bred horses.
In 1875 Judge Isaac Parker was appointed to the federal bench in Fort Smith, Arkansas with jurisdiction over the Western District of Arkansas encompassing 74,000 square miles and including the Indian Territory of present-day Oklahoma. That same year Judge Parker appointed Bass Reeves a deputy U.S. marshal.
As a civilian Reeves had a reputation as an honest, hard-working, and fair man with respect for the law and his fellowman; these traits, coupled with his easy manner, exceptional skills with a firearm, and command of several Native American dialects equipped him to be a very effective Indian Territory lawman. Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves may have been the first black man appointed to the U.S. Marshals Service west of the Mississippi River, and was apparently the only deputy who served the entire term of Judge Parker’s appointment to the bench. By all indications he was one of the most productive and respected deputies who served during this time period.
Policing the Indian Territory was a dangerous and challenging law enforcement assignment. The U.S. Marshals Service counts 120 deputy marshals as having been killed in the line-of-duty in Indian Territory prior to Oklahoma achieving statehood in 1907.
During Reeve’s distinquished 32-year career as a deputy U.S. marshal he served under 7 different marshals, survived numerous attempts on his life and one gunshot wound (1895), arrested more than 3,000 criminals, and was forced to kill at least 14 men in defense of his life or the lives of others.
In 1992 Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. He was the first black man inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners.
In recognition of his accomplishments and service, on May 26, 2012, the citizens of Fort Smith dedicated a life-and-a-quarter size bronze monument honoring U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves titled, “Into the Territories” by sculptor Harold T. Holden. The statue (pictured above) is in Pendergraft Park and in sight of the National Park Service maintained historic site which includes the building housing Judge Parker’s court.
Photo of Bass Reeves, courtesy of Western History Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries, General Personalities 87.
Bass Reeves Monument, “Into the Territories” by sculptor Harold T. Holden, Pendergraft Park, Fort Smith, Arkansas
Brady, Paul L. The Black Badge. Atlanta, GA: Milligan, 2005.
Burton, Arthur T. Black Gun, Silver Star. USA: Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska, 2006.
Special pre-release pricing for early orders
For orders received by midnight November 15, 2018
Heroes of the Badge™
Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves
1 troy ounce .999 silver proof coin
Each collectible proof coin enclosed in a airtight coin capsule
& gift box suitable for display
Includes a biographical information card
and Certificate of Authenticity
First in our Heroes of the Badge Series
Limited quantities • Collectible
Pre-release pricing, $49. Orders after 11/15/18, $55.
Free shipping on orders of 3 or more coins to the same address
A portion of the proceeds will benefit the U.S. Marshals Museum
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