One of the most courageous U.S. marshals in American history was a black man, who some claim inspired the fictional masked hero The Lone Ranger.

One of the most courageous U.S. marshals in American history was a black man, who some claim inspired the fictional masked hero The Lone Ranger.

His name was Bass Reeves and he appears in Dover author Lloyd Wheatley's latest novel, "Blain Hawk, U.S. Marshal: The Complete Trilogy."

“Blain Hawk” is a tale of murder and justice that follows the book's title character. The novel is crafted from research and pays homage to real African American and Native American U.S. marshals during the 1800s to early 20th century.

Wheatley said an estimated 200 to 300 black and Native American U.S. marshals patrolled the Old West, around Arkansas and what's now known today as Oklahoma, during that time.

The real Lone Ranger

Through research, the author said he learned Reeves – famous for arresting more than 3,000 criminals without being killed – was the foundation for “The Lone Ranger” TV series, which ran in the late 1940s and 1950s.

The show was loosely based on fearless lawman Reeves, who worked alongside Native Americans, which inspired the show's sidekick character Tonto.

“Hollywood's narrative of 'The Lone Ranger' with 'Hi-yo Silver' and all that, everything that he did was really what the U.S. marshals were doing factually in history,” Wheatley said. “But Hollywood didn't use a black man and a Native American as marshals.

“So Tonto was okay being a law man, as long as he was with The Lone Ranger. Truthfully, he didn't need The Lone Ranger if he was in factual history, because he would've had his own badge.”

Real U.S. marshals didn't always wear badges pinned on their chest. In fact, some of the black U.S. marshals were masters of disguise, like The Lone Ranger, and learned to hide in plain sight, a tactic some adopted from when they were slaves.

“I'm not going to be holding up my badge and be so identifiable,” Wheatley said. “I may look like a pauper. I could be a cowman or worker somewhere, working in a general store or sawmill, but I'm actually undercover. We call it undercover today, but that was the original undercover back then. These guys were very intelligent.”

One of the top Native American U.S. marshals ever was Black Hawk, who's mentioned in Wheatley's latest novel.

“All the warriors looked up to him because he was very fierce,” the Dover author said. “He [eventually] sided with the British to fight against the Americans.

“If you follow history, you'll see he was correct, because as whites migrated West, they started putting Natives on reservations and taking away their land and ability to free roam and hunt buffalo and all that. They just started wiping out the Native Americans and taking over the land.”

Writes of passage

Wheatley's journey to writing “Blain Hawk” started nearly two decades ago, when the Baltimore native saw a TV special featuring historical re-enactors of Buffalo Soldiers.

“When I saw them mention Bass Reeves' name, I said, 'who is Bass Reeves?' So I went back and started looking,” said Wheatley, owner of Limousine Unlimited in Dover with his wife. “I was like whoa. There was a picture of Bass Reeves and a small little paragraph about him. I saw he was a U.S. marshal and said, 'They had a black U.S. marshal?'”

From watching the program, he learned there were Native American marshals, too.

This motivated him to do research and write the first book of the trilogy, “Blain Hawk, U.S. Marshal: Part I,” released through Dorrance Publishing Co. in 1998. He sold more than 2,000 copies, inspiring the sequel, “Blain Hawk, U.S. Marshal: Part II” in 1999. The sequel was released through Wheatley's own New Horizon Publishing, Co.

In 2002, the Dover author capped off the series with “Blain Hawk, U.S. Marshal: Part III.”

Years later, however, Wheatley felt the series was incomplete. So he decided to add colored illustrations and maps. He also wanted to bind all three stories into one book.

In early 2016, "Blain Hawk, U.S. Marshal: The Complete Trilogy" was released.

Wheatley said Delaware State University's mass communications picked up the novel last year.

Black lawmen 'kicked 'booty'

The Dover author is now interested in telling his story through a TV series. He and his team are in the process of positioning themselves to make a pitch to TV networks.

Wheatley said his story is unique, because it hasn't been accurately told in Hollywood.

“It's an action-packed drama,” Wheatley said. “We've not seen black U.S. marshals, lawmen, that really kicked booty during the Reconstruction period.”