|Wyatt Earp's statue in Dodge City, Kansas|
By Dan Hagen
Wyatt Earp died Jan. 13, 1929, in Los Angeles, a legend living not in luxury.
The implacable lawman of Dodge City and Tombstone finished up in a one-room bungalow with a small kitchen sink and a stove behind a sad curtain.
Long lionized by the newspapers, Earp’s name was now appearing in books of varying quality, some featuring accounts provided by his surviving enemies. He got angry when they labeled him an old West “bad man.”
Earp was collaborating with biographer Stuart Lake when he died, saying he wanted to set the record straight about his exploits, and about his much-maligned friend Doc Holliday.
Earp died without knowing how sweeping his vindication would be. At least 10 Hollywood movies and two extremely popular television series would be based on his adventures.
“He would have preferred not to be remembered at all,” wrote biographer Casey Tefertiller. “Wyatt Earp never really understood his own story. In life, he had been mostly a gambler, saloon man and wanderer, always chasing a new opportunity. He was a man defined less by his character than by his courage. He had been reckless in his youth, but he seemed to find honor in the cowtowns. He had been honest and dependable, a standout among the unusual breed of frontier lawmen. He moved to Tombstone to make money, not to follow some higher calling. When the situation around him became desperate, he responded when unrelenting courage to avenge his brother’s death and protect the lives of his townspeople.”
“He was not a better man than those around him; he was a braver one.”
Weakened by the flu, burdened with chronic cystitis, Earp was planning another trip to the desert when he died. Moments before he stopped breathing, he whispered his last words to his wife Sadie. They were, “Suppose, suppose.”
Sources: “Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends," Allen Barra; “Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend,” Casey Tefertiller