Meet the Real-Life Lone Ranger: Former Slave Who Caught 3,000 Outlaws


It’s difficult to stitch together pieces of a story that we never witnessed. Even where there are multiple accounts of a famed hero, sometimes they don’t always add up.

Despite that, there are still some ways to separate myth from fact, and learn about legendary human beings like this man.

Bass Reeves’ life began in 1838. He was born a slave to slave parents owned by a farmer named William Reeves. While he was born in Arkansas, William Reeves decided to shift gears and try Texas, instead, when Bass was about 8 years old.

William’s son, George, liked Bass. Bass was well-comported and tall, and George made him his constant companion until sometime during the Civil War.

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It’s unclear what exactly happened: Some sources suggest that Bass and George were playing cards, which escalated into a fight, forcing Bass to run away.

For a while he took up with several groups of Native Americans, as it wasn’t safe for him to be out on his own. He learned a lot about their way of life and became a skilled shooter.

After gleaning much from his Native American companions, he struck out to Arkansas again in 1863 after the Emancipation Proclamation. He spent the next 12 years settling down, farming, marrying and raising 10 kids.

In 1875, Bass became the perfect candidate for deputy — deputy united states marshal, to be exact. He spoke several languages, he was smart, he knew the area, and he had impressive revolver skills.

He was formidable in appearance, too: tall, riding a white horse, and having precise grooming and dress. It soon became known that you didn’t want Bass Reeves on your trail if you were running from the law.

He threw together genius disguises when the need arose, and was able to sneak into outlaw holds — passing as one of their own — and then arresting them when they fell asleep.

Though he was a skilled gunman, he didn’t always pull the trigger. He “never shot a man when it was not necessary for him to do so in the discharge of his duty to save his own life,” according to Legends of America.

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Over 35 years, Bass managed to arrest more than 3,000 outlaws — an incredible number by anyone’s standards. One of those outlaws happened to be his own son, Bennie.

It was a kind of test for Bass. It would prove how serious he was about upholding the law and doing his job, so he insisted on tracking down his son himself. Bennie had been charged with murdering his own wife, and Bass was soon on the case.

According to History, Bass arrested his son, who was sentenced to life in prison.

Because of his impressive track record, there are rumors that Bass was the inspiration for “The Lone Ranger” — but that’s all they’ve been: rumors. It’s easy to draw the connections between the fictional character and the real-life outlaw hunter, and die-hard fans maintain that he had to have been connected somehow.

Either way, Bass Reeves the man was not purely fictional, and his escapades actually happened, making him a pretty impressive, real-life version of the famous icon.

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