FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A feature film about Bass Reeves, the Fort Smith-area lawman who became one of the first Black Deputy U.S. Marshals west of the Mississippi, is now under development by TGE Inc.

Reeves went on to be the longest-serving deputy in Judge Isaac C. Parker’s federal court, according to a release from the River Valley Film Society.

“It’s been a long time coming for someone to embrace the true story of the real wild west by bringing to the big screen the story of Bass Reeves,” said Fort Smith Mayor George McGill. “It’s an American story and the true definition of true grit. But even more importantly it’s a story of a man of character who served the U.S. Marshals like none other.”

McGill, the first Black mayor of Fort Smith, noted that Reeves gave up a lifestyle of considerable wealth built by training horses to serve upon request by Judge Parker on the federal court that oversaw the Indian Territories of what is now Oklahoma.

Reeves escaped slavery in Texas during the Civil War, and is thought to have fought for the Union Indian Brigades and learned the lay of the land, as well as native languages and peoples, according to the press release.

Reeves was one of the first deputies hired by Judge Parker, who arrived in Fort Smith 1875 by the appointment of President Ulysses S. Grant. Reeves would remain an officer of the court until Oklahoma became a state in 1907.

Reeves told a territorial newspaper in 1901 that he had brought in over 3,000 people with warrants during his 32 years as a Deputy U.S. Marshal.

The River Valley Film Society is thrilled to be part of the development process of TGE’s Bass Reeves movie. TGE’s production will be a historic moment, transforming Fort Smith and the River Valley’s creative economy. Our area’s talent and natural scenic resources provide the ingredients needed to cultivate a regional film industry and I believe TGE’s Bass Reeves project will be the catalyst launching a new artistic frontier.

Dr. Brandon Chase Goldsmith, River Valley Film Society president

The film society, which oversees production of the Fort Smith International Film Festival, is helping provide connections with key stakeholders for the film’s development.