Why does Virgil Earp get so little credit as an Old West lawman?

mtrimbleWhy does Virgil Earp get so little credit as an Old West lawman, and his brother Wyatt get so much?

Stuart Dukes

Sittingbourne, Kent, UK

Virgil was a stalwart when it came to being a peace officer, and he undoubtedly deserves more attention. He was the real lawman among the “Fighting Earps.” Virgil spent more time wearing a
badge and less time getting into trouble than his brothers did.

The problem is, the earliest popular books on the Earps—Tombstone by Walter Noble Burns and Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal by Stuart Lake—
put Wyatt at the forefront. Then the movies compounded the problem by making Virgil little more than a bit player.

So far, Don Chaput’s 1994 bookVirgil Earp: Western Peace Officer is the only long-form biography. The man is an interesting target for more research and writing.

What do you think?

Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.