Wyatt Earp Biography Separates Myth From Reality

Monday, March 13, 2017
By Maureen Cavanaugh, Michael Lipkin

The Old West lawman Wyatt Earp has had his story told in at least a half-dozen movies, played by Burt Lancaster, Henry Fonda and Kevin Costner, among others.

The stories that have survived in pop culture are often more legend than historical fact. But a new generation of Western historians are trying to separate fact from fiction to give a more accurate picture of the Wild West and its most famous characters.

"The legend that Earp, (Bat) Masterson and their colleagues were frequently in gun battles, that was untrue," said Tom Clavin, author of "Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West." "Wyatt Earp in his entire career is credited with maybe killing one man. His way was you hit someone with the butt of your gun and they woke up the next morning in jail. He was a very tough lawman, but was dedicated to being a genuine peace officer."

Clavin will be speaking at Warwick's on Monday at 7:30pm. He joined KPBS Midday Edition on Monday with more on Earp's life before the O.K. Corral and how his post-marshal career brought him to San Diego.