The wildly popular Django Unchained is the most talked about film of the last month, and aside from the controversy, it’s popular because of how badass Django is. However, nobody knew about the real Django–a man named Bass Reeves–whom became a Deputy U.S. Marshal in 1875 at the age of 38. During his 32-year career as a Deputy Marshal, Bass Reeves (pictured below) was responsible for arresting 3,000 felones and killing 14 men, without being shot once.
While no comments from Quentin Tarantino have surfaced as of yet, it’s quite possible Bass Reeves was the basis for fictional character Django from Django Unchained. Bass Reeves was born into slavery in 1838 in Crawford County, Arkansas. He was eventually freed from his owner, George Reeves, in which lead him to live among local Native Americans. Whilst living among the natives, he picked up their customs and learned their languages, and learned how to scout. After living with the natives, Reeves later acquired his own land and built an eight-room house with his bare hands.
In 1875, Reeves became a U.S. Marshal at the age of 38 after Isaac C. Parker was made federal judge of Indian Territory. In this role, he was authorized to arrest not just black outlaws, but white outlaw as well. Reeves earned quite a name for himself for being an incredible marksman, being fearless and persistent.
In 1882, accounts suggest that Reeves arrested Belle Starr, an outlaw, for horse theft, after she turned herself in when she heard the legendary Reeves was looking for her. In 1889, Reeves also pursued the infamous Tom Story gang for their horse theft operation by waiting for the gang on the side of the road he was traveling. Reeves shot Tom Story dead, and his gang dismembered and were never heard from again. Reeves also killed two of the three Brunter brothers, and arrested the third brother.
In 1887, Reeves was arrested, himself, under suspicion of murdering his cook, William Leach. Reeves testified that the death was accidental, and he didn’t mean to shoot Leach while cleaning his gun. He was acquitted of the charge.
Reeves died on January 12, 1910 of Bright’s disease at the age of 72.
There has actually already been a film loosely based on Bass Reeves’ life, entitled simply Bass Reeves. The film was majorly fictionalized. However, Morgan Freeman has spent more than five years trying to get Reeves’ story heard via the big screen.