T. Baridi Nkokheli, director of sanitation for the City of Fort Smith, has depicted U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves on behalf of the city since 2007. As the unveiling of the Bass Reeves Legacy Monument approaches on Saturday (May 26), we queried Nkokheli about his portrayal of the famous lawman.
Q: Who is better-looking, you or Bass Reeves?
Q: How did you land the job as the one to portray Reeves for the City of Fort Smith?
A: [Through] Circuit Court Judge Jim Spears and Harold Trisler, who is the regional vice president of the Westerners International, a worldwide organization headquarters in Oklahoma at the Cowboys Hall of Fame.
Q: How many appearances have you made, as Reeves, on average?
A: More than 500 (an average of twice per week over the last five years). At my peek in a 40-hour work week, up to five hours.
Q: Who is the most famous person you've met while depicting Reeves?
A: Morgan Freeman.
Q: What does your Bass Reeves wardrobe closet consist of?
A: Four replica 19th century three-piece suits/outfits consisting of long sleeve shirts, vests, coats, duster, bowties, suspender, long boots and hat, plus a gun belt, gun, rifle badge.
Q: What's your favorite part of the costume?
Duster and rifle.
Q: How are you with firearms?
Fair shot. I possess an Arkansas concealed handgun permit.
Q: Based on your study of Bass Reeves, what do you think he would say about all the fuss that's been made over the statue of his likeness coming to Fort Smith?
A: I don't imagine Bass Reeves could ever comprehend receiving an honor such as this.