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Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp

Earp, Wyatt Berry Stapp (ûrp) [key], 1848–1929, law officer, gambler, and gunfighter of the American West, b. Monmouth, Ill. After serving as police officer in Wichita (1874) and Dodge City (1876–77), Kans., he became an armed guard for Wells, Fargo & Company in Tombstone, Ariz. There, with his brothers Virgil and Morgan and a friend, Doc Holliday, he was involved in the controversial gunfight at (actually just outside) the O.K. Corral (Oct. 26, 1881), in which several men were killed. Leaving Tombstone in 1882, Earp traveled widely, operating saloons in San Diego, Calif.; Nome, Alaska; and Tonopah, Nev., before settling in Los Angeles. Contrary to the legend he assiduously promoted in two authorized biographies and elsewhere, Earp was both lawman and lawbreaker, sometimes enforcing the law, sometimes engaging in such activities as gambling, horse-stealing, embezzling, and vigilante killing.

See biographies by F. Waters (1960), C. Tefertiller (1997), A. Barra (1998), and A. C. Isenberg (2013); studies by E. E. Ellsworth (1963 and 1964).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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