Reeves makes permanent stand in Fort Smith

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 128 views 

FORT SMITH — Into the Territory, a bronze statue of U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves, was a sight to behold in the late springtime sun as the sculpture was unveiled Saturday (May 26) at Ross Pendergraft Park in downtown Fort Smith.

The monument was created by sculptor Harold T. Holden and replicated at a foundry in Norman, Okla. The larger-than-life statue of Reeves also includes his horse, Blaze, and his trusty dog, named simply “Dog.”

Hundreds of residents and visitors attended the unveiling. Ceremony speakers included Holden, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack; U.S. Sen. John Boozman; Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders; Louie McKinney, retired director of U.S. Marshals Service; Judge Jim Spears; U.S. Marshal Carl Cock; and Craig Pair, chairman of the Bass Reeves Legacy Initiative Chairman. Songs about Reeves were sung by R. W. Hampton and Herschel Parker.

After the program, the crowd shifted over to the monument, then the ropes were pulled and the cloth came off. T. Baridi Nkokheli, director of the Fort Smith Department of Sanitation and a Bass Reeves look-alike who has volunteered his time to impersonate Reeves over the last several years, was happy to stand by the statue and take pictures with anyone who wanted to. He conversed with people at length about his uniform and how he carries a real pistol and fully functional rifle (he carried a replica pistol for the purpose of the unveiling ceremony). He also demonstrated how to use a pair of shackles.

Scottish bag pipes could be heard in the pavilion as patrons made their way to eat at restaurants downtown or over to the Fort Smith National Historic Site to look around. Reeves’s gun and badge were on display at the historic site, and in the upstairs courtroom, The Westerners re-enacted a trial in which Reeves' was accused of shooting a cook who later died.The trial was to determine whether the shooting accidental.

Reeves was said to be an amazing man, raised as a slave and eventually becoming a lawman — an example of an ordinary man doing something extraordinary.