tv Legends Lies The Real West FOX News January 2, 2016 5:00pm-6:01pm PST
[ electricity buzzes ] [ radio tuning ] [ static ] [ "william tell overture" plays ] >> with his faithful indian companion, the daring and resourceful rider led the fight for law and order. [ horse whinnies ] from out of a time when the west needed a hero come the thundering hoofbeats of the great silver horse and the true story of the legendary lawman. the fictional character of radio captured the hearts and minds of people of all ages. now, for the first time from the pages of history, overriding the legends and lies, we bring you the true story of the wild west's greatest champion of justice, the real lone ranger. ♪
into a new frontier. they would shape a nation, lay hold of their destiny, and birth a new mythology. but, with the passing of time, every myth has its reckoning. the lone ranger, the pure and righteous lawman, a symbol of truth and justice in an untamed land... for nearly a century, this enduring icon has shaped our image of law and order in the wild west. but behind every mask stands a man. and behind every legend lies the truth. >> the lone ranger, made famous on radio and tv as a straight-shooting hero in a black-and-white world of good and evil, but a fictional, idealized version of a real western legend... the truth is lone ranger is likely based on a man who fights for law and order on the western frontier. this remarkable man lives
by the same unshakable code, rides a white horse, and even works with a native american sidekick. but many have never heard of this true hero of the real west, a deputy u.s. marshal named bass reeves. [ "william tell overture" plays ] >> nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater defender of the law. return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past... [ echoing ] >> ten years after the civil war, as the nation stitches itself back together, chaos rules the indian territory, the most dangerous place in the wild west. but deputy u.s. marshal bass reeves fights for the rule of law. >> [ groaning ] >> what's it gon' be? [ horse whinnies ]
come on here, boy. >> the lone ranger symbolizes the protagonist of the american western. >> get in there. >> but yet people don't know who he is. the lone ranger closely resembles the career of bass reeves. >> like the lone ranger, bass reeves is a figure of mystery. but where the fictional hero chooses to hide his identity with a mask, bass reeves's name and face have been overlooked and obscured by history. >> bass reeves the new deputy? >> yes, sir. >> bass reeves is one of only a few dozen deputy marshals who served the federal court and jail in fort smith, arkansas, a place that more than earns the name hell on the border. these men are charged with keeping the peace in the new home of the so-called five civilized tribes forced out of the southeastern states. >> the indian removal act took place. a lot of the tribes were moved to oklahoma. indian territory was
what it was called at the time. it was a diseased and awful place to be. >> it was a very dangerous area. there were criminal elements that would go into that area simply to escape the law. and the law wouldn't follow unless you were deputy u.s. marshals. >> now, here's a new warrant for ya. that there's a bad man. you best take a couple injuns with ya. >> i only need but one. >> no other place at any time is as deadly to u.s. marshals as the indian territory in the late 19th century. it's estimated that outlaws outnumber marshals there more than 300 to one. just like the lone ranger, bass reeves frequently rides into this dangerous land with just one man to back him up, a member of the lighthorse, the mounted police of the five civilized tribes. >> like the lone ranger
and tonto, bass reeves and his lighthorse possemen patrol a vast, wild country teeming with outlaws. whiskey is illegal in the indian territory. but smuggling is rampant and profitable. as a deputy u.s. marshal, reeves is often tasked with bringing bootleggers to justice. >> whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. >> like the lone ranger, bass reeves tries to apprehend criminals without violence. >> i got a powerful thirst. >> he depends on the cunning lighthorse to help him gain an advantage using surprise. >> i've got a cure for what ails ya. four bucks. >> hold it right there. [ horse whinnies ]
>> bass reeves was the lawman that all outlaws did not want to meet. reeves was a cunning man. he was a wildly intelligent man and able to do things that no other marshal was able to do. like the lone ranger, he was determined to always get his man. >> there are many parallels between bass reeves and the lone ranger. they were for justice, law and order. the lone ranger was on a mission to bring in the bad guys. and there's something about the man behind the mask. this gave him a little bit of an aura of mystery, i think. >> though bass reeves doesn't wear a literal mask, his identity remains a mystery for many. few outlaws see him for who he truly is until it's too late. >> yeah, we got you now, boy. >> it's my horse. what are you doing?
>> quit movin', boy. >> oh! aw! >> you're gonna hang! >> let me go. i didn't do anything. i already told you i bought this horse. i didn't know that it was stolen. >> well, we say you stole it. and we're the only law around here. >> when the west desperately needs the strong arm of the law... ...a man with a badge stands up for justice, revealing a true american hero... >> who the hell are you? >> ...and unmasking a legend.
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and bring the guilty to justice. no one knows where he comes from or why he chooses his righteous path, but bass reeves fights against crime and prejudice. ♪ >> there ain't no such thing as a colored lawman. [ laughter ] [ rifle cocks ] >> and to those who doubted him, he said, "if you do not believe i am the one i say i am, you will truly die in your sins." you ready to die in your sins? [ bird calling ]
>> in a famous radio series, the lone ranger caught the bad guys, delivered them to justice, rode away with people asking, "who was that masked man?" >> the black mask that the lone ranger wore can be seen as a little bit symbolic of the black man, who is often invisible in this society because african americans often were not recognized for many of their accomplishments. >> and what was that you said back there? >> the bible. >> sir, how'd you know all that scripture? >> "i, the lord, command you to do what is just and right." >> parilee! what i done tell you about bible nonsense? >> sir, please! >> come on with me. >> ah! sir, no!
>> it is not known definitively how bass reeves escaped being a slave. there are many conflicting stories. but they all agree that he makes his way into indian territory. under federal law at the time, escaped slaves must be captured and returned even in states where slavery is illegal. but the tribal governments of the indian territory do not adhere to u.s. law. so it's one of the safest places for escaped salves. >> some of the tribes in indian territory have a long history of helping former slaves. and bass reeves finds a home in their midst. >> two of the bands of the seminole are actually persons of african descent
who had run away and became a part of the seminole nation. and i believe that bass reeves does indeed benefit from that network. >> the indians, they was mighty good to me. and i was proud to gain their trust. >> when the civil war breaks out, reeves fights for the union cause to abolish slavery and finally achieve his freedom. >> by the end of the american civil war, bass reeves knows how to operate in three worlds -- white man's world, native american world, and an african american world. so now, we have a guy with a skill set that will be extraordinarily useful considering the wild times ahead for the nation. [ horse whinnies ]
>> once bass reeves became a free man, he moved into indian territory for good, married a creek woman. and he started raising a family. and he just wanted to live his life. >> though reeves tries to settle down after the civil war, by 1875, the indian territory is exploding with crime and violence, and it desperately needs law and order. >> henry bedford, you are accused of horse stealing and murder. >> president ulysses s. grant appoints judge isaac parker to the court in fort smith, giving him jurisdiction over the entire indian territory. >> the law sentences you to hang by the neck until you are dead. may god have mercy on your soul. >> parker sends an immediate message to the territory's outlaws by hanging six men at the same time. >> any last words?
then prepare to meet your maker. >> i have never hanged a man. it is the law. i favor hanging's abolition, provided there is certainty of punishment. it is the certainty of punishment that halts crime. >> they called judge isaac parker the hanging judge, and a lot of people certainly swung from his gallows. he was no-nonsense. he was tough as nails. and he needed tough, no-nonsense marshals.
>> the indian territory was 75,000 square miles. it's the biggest court in u.s. history. reeves knows the language. he knows the customs because he had lived there. and so he was the absolute perfect person to be a deputy u.s. marshal. >> i'll put it bluntly, mr. reeves. i am looking for men with courage, men who are willing to fight for justice, for civil rights for all. >> your honor, i cannot read or write. >> the president is not lookin' for schoolteachers, and neither am i. ♪ >> judge parker and bass reeves, they were the same cut when it came to law and order, right and wrong.
they were a perfect fit to work together. >> criminals soon learn to fear judge parker and his top enforcer, bass reeves. but unrepentant killer jim webb has no respect for the law. and he's enraged when his neighbor, a circuit preacher, starts a brush fire that spreads to his ranch. >> stewart! what the hell are you doin' to my place? you black bastard. >> jim webb was one of the most notorious bad men of the indian territory. he was a racist. he represented everything that bass reeves had had to fight against all of his life. >> got another warrant from judge parker for jim webb, wanted for murder. >> bass, when you put a warrant
in his hand, they said nothing could stop him. he was going to ride until he found that man. >> bass reeves charges out to serve his most dangerous warrant to date and face off with a cold-blooded killer. ♪ and then santa's workers zapped it right to our house. and that's how they got it here. cool. the magic of the season is here at the lexus december to remember sales event. this is the pursuit of perfection. trust number one doctor recommended dulcolax constipated? use dulcolax tablets for gentle overnight relief suppositories for relief in minutes and stool softeners for comfortable relief of hard stools. dulcolax, designed for dependable relief
with bass reeves. >> legendary deputy u.s. marshal bass reeves is on the trail of vicious murderer jim webb. knowing that webb won't hesitate to shoot at lawmen, reeves and a posseman named floyd wilson approach webb's ranch with their badges hidden. >> the lone ranger worked in disguise quite a bit, same as bass reeves. that's his m.o. and he disguised himself as a cowboy on this particular occasion, looking for employment. >> mighty tired and hungry. might we get somethin' to eat? >> bass reeves couldn't read. so what he quite often would do was hand the warrant to the person he was about to arrest and tell 'em to read it to him. and he'd get the drop on 'em because "he's filled his hands with paper and can't shoot me."
>> ain't i seed you before, boy? ♪ >> don't reckon so. but they did give me this letter to bring up here. >> hell, this ain't no letter. >> just another young gunslinger who doubted my ability with this six-gun. he was real fast. but like a lot of 'em, he couldn't shoot both fast and straight. >> though he does his best to avoid gunfire, bass reeves is a deadly shot when he has to be. while there is no official record of how many men
reeves kills during his career, an oklahoma paper puts the number at 14, all but one in self-defense. >> bass reeves, you son of a bitch! it ain't over! ♪ >> bass reeves spends months at a time in the wilds of indian territory rounding up fugitives. but the longer the trip and the more felons he apprehends, the more dangerous it gets. [ owl hooting ] >> [ grunts ] >> reeves hires a team to help him on the trail, including a cook and a posseman. the trips are exhausting, but he can't let his guard down. >> we have the same... >> y'all don't worry about it. you gonna miss me when i'm gone, sir. we gonna get out of here, mr. reeves. >> hush up now, all of you.
[ man screams, horse whinnies ] >> glory. you shot leech. >> leech! >> ah. >> get some help! >> the cook was shot in the neck, seriously wounded. bass did everything he could to provide medical attention. they took him to a doctor, but the cook died. >> after he shoots his cook, some would like to see the famous black marshal hang for murder. he could flee and become a fugitive himself. but reeves's belief in justice compels him to face trial in judge parker's court and accept the consequences of the law. >> i trust your word, bass. but the law demands you stand trial.
>> i understand, judge. >> you can post bond and get back to your family. ♪ >> daddy! daddy! daddy! >> bass reeves, being in the line of work that he is, but he's gone all the time. and so, mostly, he leaves his wife to raise the kids. and a couple of his sons end up getting in trouble with the law. >> all rise. >> bass reeves' dedication to justice is hard on his family. and if he is found guilty of murder, judge parker's gallows could take him away from them for good. >> the honorable judge isaac parker presiding. >> be seated. >> it was a difficult situation to have judge parker facing his favorite u.s. deputy marshal. but the judge was a man that went by the books. and it had to... there had to be a trial.
>> the prosecution calls deputy marshal reeves to the stand. >> in many ways, bass reeves was on trial for most of his career because a black man who has authority over whites did not sit well with a lot of people. >> deputy marshal reeves, you contend that you had nothin' to do with this killing, that your gun did it. [ laughter ] >> yes, sir. i had a cartridge in the magazine, and i couldn't throw it up to the barrel. so then, i -- i reached for my knife. either my knife or -- or my hand stuck the trigger, and -- and the gun went off. [ man screams, horse whinnies ]
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>> will the defendant please rise? >> we, the jury, find the defendant... ...not guilty of the charge of the indictment. [ audience murmuring ] >> i said go. >> it's hard to believe that bass reeves was acquitted by a mostly white jury. but one of the things that came out during the trial was that it was unlikely a man who was trying to kill the cook would then expend so much energy trying to save him. >> though judge isaac parker is remembered as the legendary hanging judge, the truth is, out of more than 13,000 cases, he sends just 79 felons to the gallows. given this, judge parker could more appropriately
be remembered for his fairness and strict adherence to the law. virtually everyone who comes through his court receives a fair trial, even a black deputy marshal accused of murder. >> good to have you back with us, and just in time too. it's jim webb. he jumped bail and disappeared. ♪ [ webb grunts ] >> reeves, you son of a bitch! it ain't over! >> jim webb, the killer who reeves put behind bars for murder, is once again at large. and he'll do whatever it takes to avoid being caught. >> bass reeves always gets his man. and the reason he always gets his man is not 'cause he's a superman. it's because he has a network. >> reeves learned to -- to know a lot of settlers, irregardless of ethnicity. and they could tell him what was going on in their area or give him any information
that would be helpful to him. >> reeves gets a tip that webb is hiding with a friend in the chickasaw nation. >> if bass reeves had a nemesis, it was jim webb. webb was everything that reeves was not. i mean, he's a believer in white supremacy, clearly no fan of the law. and bass reeves feels in his heart that he must bring him in.
and i -- i reckon you would've been the 12th. >> the giving of the gun to bass reeves is a sign of respect. so this white racist outlaw, this man who had murdered a black preacher, now, finally, with his dying breath, comes to see that this black man has brought him down. >> jim webb's death closes one of the most violent chapters in bass reeves's career. [ horse whickers ] he continues to pursue justice in the indian territory. but when he suffers two of the greatest tragedies of his life, everything he's built comes crashing down.
>> as my dear mother used to say, "even a broken clock is right twice a day." >> son of a... >> don't you cross that square with my watch. >> for more revealing stories on these and other western characters featured in "legends and lies," purchase the companion book available at billoreilly.com and bookstores nationwide.
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♪ >> for two decades, like a real-life lone ranger, bass reeves brings order to the western frontier. but in 1896, two personal tragedies threaten his role as a man of justice. his wife's death deals a devastating blow to his already strained relationship with his family. and the loss of judge parker leaves his career as a lawman in doubt. >> he was a mighty powerful man who'd done a lot of good according to what the bible say to do. he sure know him some bible. you know, he was named after the old prophet isaac. >> the partnership between isaac parker and bass reeves really started to clean things up.
but by the time that judge parker dies in 1896, the country had changed. >> six months before parker's death, the u.s. supreme court makes a ruling with long-term effects on civil rights. >> what many do not realize is that america actually makes positive strides toward racial equality during reconstruction following the civil war. but the plessy vs. ferguson separate-but-equal decision in 1896 brings an end to much of that racial progress. >> plessy vs. ferguson ruled in separate but equal, in other words, segregation -- segregated schools, segregated water fountains, and all of these things that would carry over clear into the 1960s. >> a year after the plessy vs. ferguson decision, reeves is transferred to muskogee. he is a second-class citizen in a town that is rife with racial tension, his wife
and his mentor gone. >> reeves felt a little bit like he'd been betrayed. he had worked for the federal government for years and years. and now, the laws are comin' down on black people like a hammer in terms of what they can and cannot do. >> everything is falling apart for bass reeves -- his career, his freedom, and his family. and two years into the 20th century, his code of justice is put to its greatest test. ♪ >> give me the warrant for my son. he's my son, my responsibility. >> reeves's son ben kills his wife in a jealous rage. and the father has to bring him in. >> people ask, "well, how could he track down his own son?" we have to look at his sense of duty. and his sense of duty was so strong. for him to not do that, that would have been
a dishonorable thing to do. and people with that high feeling of duty and responsibility, it is always duty before dishonor. [ thunder crashes ] >> ben heads south to texas, hoping to reach the mexican border. but reeves easily picks up his trail. ben isn't a hardened outlaw like the men reeves usually chases. but he has killed one family member, and he might not hesitate to kill another. ♪ you do all this research on the perfect car.
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>> oh. >> bass reeves really didn't have a choice. he was a peace officer, and his son had committed a crime. he was duty bound to bring him in. >> ben reeves spends nearly 12 years in federal prison in leavenworth, kansas. after turning ben in, bass will never again see his son outside of a prison cell. but his own freedom is also disappearing. in 1907, the indian territory officially becomes the state of oklahoma, where segregation is now commonplace. >> like many other confederate-identifying states, oklahoma's white government uses the separate-but-equal doctrine to enact so-called jim crow laws
that discriminate against african americans. this is the sad irony of bass reeves's life. after all the respect he gains as a u.s. marshal, the law he risked his life to uphold turns against him. >> whites only. you need to move. >> history has given glory to the wyatt earps and to the wild bill hickoks where it has forgotten bass reeves. it's a tragedy. i think it's a testament to the racism of early 20th-century america that they couldn't fathom having a black lawman who was so much better than all the white lawmen of his day.
>> bass reeves rises from slavery to a position of authority and respect, only to have it all taken away again. >> fellas. >> uncle bass, tell us a story. >> oh, you want a story? >> yeah. >> all right. you wait for me right here. i'll get you a story. >> he outlives the hair-trigger world of the old west, a brutal no-man's-land that he helped shape into a nation of laws. but his incredible legacy can't stay buried forever. >> where do i begin? >> bass reeves arrested 3,000 dangerous felons with little backup, no radio. coming from a law enforcement background, that is amazing to me. he's the man. >> this right here belonged to a bad man. >> bass reeves is the guy you think about when you think about tough-as-nails lawmen. he was the engine that drove the taming of the wild west. >> he killed 11 men. >> bass deserves to be listed
among all the great american lawmen of the old west. i personally believe that bass reeves was the inspiration for the lone ranger. >> bass reeves, he was really, at heart, a man of justice and a man of peace. if he didn't inspire "the lone ranger," he should have. >> return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats of the great silver horse. >> to find an equal of bass reeves, it's difficult not to look to the legendary lone ranger character. the similarities between the two are hard to ignore and, to many, a strong indication that bass reeves is the true basis for the tv character. we may never know if bass reeves really is the inspiration for the iconic hero. but the true story of bass reeves
is more extraordinary than any legend. [ "william tell overture" playing ] my new year's resolution is to move forward on our unfinished business as much as i can. >> president obama closing in on executive action that will target gun owners. so why? and will it do anything to stop mass shootings in this country? it's tonight's opening statement. plus -- >> she wants to accuse me of things and the husband's one of the great abusers of the world? give me a break. give me a break. >> the donald taking aim at the clintons and their record against women. i debate a top democrat. and later -- it could be one of the biggest trials in years. i'll weigh in on the case that could put bl