Wyatt Earp

Law Officer

Born: 19 March 1848
Died: 13 January 1929
Birthplace: Monmouth, Illinois
Best known as: Doc Holliday's friend at the O.K. Corral
Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp became a legend of the American West for his role in a 30-second gunfight in 1881 at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. For most of his life Earp was an itinerant opportunist in western frontier towns, finding work where he could -- often in saloons and gambling halls. His general bearing and skill with a firearm led to the occasional job as a law officer, and before he made it to Tombstone in 1879 he was a marshal in Wichita and Dodge City, Kansas for about five years. Much has been written about the Tombstone incident that put him the history books, but the short version is that Earp, his friend "Doc" Holiday and his brothers (including Tombstone's top law officer, Virgil Earp) had a shootout with several longtime territorial rivals. When the dust settled, Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton were dead. Wyatt and Holliday stood trial for their murders and were acquitted, but the story spawned a legend, with Wyatt cast as a sort-of good guy -- but definitely a hard-nosed tough. Earp never got rich off his own story (despite some feeble efforts), but his reputation and his role in the events in Tombstone spawned dramatic tales and, eventually, Hollywood movie versions, the earliest of which were filmed while he was still alive.
Extra credit: Earp's brothers were James (1841-1926), Virgil (1843-1906), Morgan (1851-82) and Warren (1855-1900).

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