March 21, 2007
Bass Reeves, probably the most famous black law enforcement officer operating in Indian Territory, was an ex-slave who moved to Van Buren (Crawford County) after the Civil War. He signed on as a deputy marshal for Judge Isaac Parker of Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in 1875 and remained in federal service until 1906. Bass, who could not read and so memorized his warrants, was involved in many controversies, including one in which he allowed the corpse of a criminal he had killed to burn in a campfire. After leaving Fort Smith, he served as a police officer in Oklahoma.