Marshall TrimbleHow accurate was 1999’s You Know My Name, about Bill Tilghman?

James Patrick Gaines
Orangevale, California

Like most Western movies—not that close to the truth.

Researchers have proven many of Bill Tilghman’s exploits are myths, especially his record as a peace officer. Researcher Nancy B. Samuelson writes in Shoot from the Lip: Lives, Legends and Lies of the Three Guardsmen of Oklahoma and U.S. Marshal Nix that Tilghman was corrupt and had been arrested numerous times for running a bawdy house and for gambling while serving as a deputy sheriff.

In the film, Tilghman—as city marshal in Cromwell, Oklahoma—is shot and killed on November 1, 1924, by federal prohibition agent Wiley Lynn. A drunk and angry Lynn killed Tilghman because he had refused to take a bribe.

In reality, Lynn conducted important raids on bootleggers. He shot Tilghman, claiming self-defense, after the lawman blocked a raid. Political heavyweights tried to convict Lynn of murder, but he was acquitted after several people confirmed that Tilghman had been on the take.

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