Bass Reeves: A Screenplay

James Jackson Walzel, University of Texas at El Paso


The Arkansas River mirrored the blaze of the hovering sunset during a frigid February evening as I enjoyed a conversation with a young man, Travis, just downhill from the statue of Bass Reeves in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Travis initiated the conversation, asking about my dog, but our discussion segued into fishing, sports, and Black History Month. Travis, an African-American man, wondered why history had buried the lead on one of the most honorable Americans in our nation’s history. In the nineteenth century, Bass Reeves escaped slavery, lived among the Indians, and then became the first black deputy U.S. Marshal in the Old West. He navigated three cultures while chasing the most hardened of outlaws in the wildest of lands. Outlaws regularly shot at Reeves, but not a single bullet ever penetrated his flesh. Travis wondered why Hollywood had yet to make a movie about his life. I agreed and told him I was in Fort Smith to do research and write a spec script for a Master’s Thesis that I hoped would one day become a feature film. I was pleased to see Travis’ broad smile. (Shortened by ProQuest.)

Subject Area

Creative writing|Film studies|Theater

Recommended Citation

Walzel, James Jackson, "Bass Reeves: A Screenplay" (2019). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI13886711.